Q: My friend says all marijuana is organic. I disagree. Who’s right?
A: I'd give you permission to gloat right about now, but it's really nothing to celebrate. A lot of our illicit vices come from the earth (even the quintessential anti-hippie drug, cocaine), but somehow we've managed to screw up the whole natural balance of things.
(Warning: the following might be considered a buzz kill.)
Take coke, for example. The coca leaf was a perfectly sustainable traditional South American crop chewed for millennia by indigenous Andeans. It was, and still is, a good source of vitamins and helps stave off hunger, dehydration and altitude sickness.
Today, the slashing and burning of remote Amazon jungle to make way for the cash crop has intensified to the point that, in one region of Peru, coca growing is responsible for the destruction of nearly a million hectares of tropical forest, according to the UN.
Then there are all the nasty by-products involved in processing the stuff. Did you know that for every kilo of pure cocaine, 3 litres of sulphuric acid, 60 to 80 litres of kerosene and 1 litre of concentrated ammonia are used? Trouble is, it doesn't just pollute your body.
In Colombia, over 20 million litres of acetone, ammonia, sulphuric acid and hydrochloric acid are dumped in local waterways by cocaine hydrochloride labs each year. A researcher at Peru's National Agrarian University documented that the "vast quantities of toxic waste" flooding rivers and streams in one area had almost completely destroyed all forms of life in smaller streams.
Not the kind of thing that comes to mind when you're partying, is it?
It's pretty much the same story of forest destruction, watershed pollution and soil depletion for heroin/opium production, except most of it happens in Asia. Almost the same chemicals are used to extract morphine, and they're dumped in similarly ecologically horrific ways, damaging even a national park and a wildlife sanctuary in northern Thailand.
But the list of ecologically damaging drugs doesn't end there, of course. If you believe the press, crystal meth use has reached almost epidemic proportions, and if that's the case, enviros have plenty to worry about. For every pound of meth, 5 or 6 pounds of hazardous waste get dumped, usually into drains and ditches. What kind of hazards are we talking about? Freon, antifreeze, paint thinner, starter fuel, acetone (nail polish remover) and drain-clearing chems have been tied to meth labs.
Even you lovey-dovey E-heads who wouldn't touch that stuff have probably ingested crystal. Ecstasy, after all, is generally MDMA cut with speed, meth or other stimulants, according to TRIP! Project (www.tripproject.ca).
We won't even get into all the ozonedepleting substances enjoyed by huffers who get off on the fumes that make them eco hazards.
No, no, we're talking about a much more common group of Canadians who like to puff a little god-given Mary Jane (Canada's illicit drug of choice) here and there. And to get to your question, while many say hemp is a low-pesticide plant, pretty much every major weed grower uses synthetic fertilizers as well as chemical pesticides, herbicides and fungicides.
All you indo'hydro fans are probably puffing on fewer pesticides than outdoor smokers, but chems are still used to kill off spider mites and fungus. Plus, any sizable operation is sucking back gobs of energy to power grow lights.
Jamaican sess smokers should know that weed ops there have been tied to the island's deforestation problem.
Earth-conscious home ganja growers should consider buying green gardening supplies from places like Grassroots on Danforth or Bloor.
Save a few trees by smoking from a glass pipe, one-hitter or bong. Or roll with tree-free hemp papers, like Smoking Eco Hemp or Pure Hemp (from $1.25 at Toronto Hemp Company on Yonge or Friendly Stranger on Queen West). You can also get nifty rice papers made with natural gum arabic ($2). Friendly Stranger just got some 100 per cent organic hemp-and-flax papers ($1.95).
Also, use hand power over plug-in power by skipping the coffee grinder and reaching for a manual bud buster instead. Just be aware that some busters on shelves are made with endangered woods like ebony or cocobolo. You're safer with tulip wood ($53.95 at THC). The owners of Canuck-made Sweetleaf Grinders won't tell us what type of wood they use (they say it's proprietary) but insist it's not endangered.
By the way, herb smokers assume they're puffing out fewer toxins than cigarettes because marijuana isn't generally laced with all the additives that tobacco is. Truth is, you're still inhaling plenty of carbon monoxide, tar and cyanide as well as about 400 other chemicals that come from burning tobacco or its wacky counterpart.
Oh yeah, and don't forget to support your local farmers!
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