"You ain't just smoking pot, bud. You're smoking some heavy-duty pesticides from Mexico."

When dialing up SiteMeter this morning over the first cup of coffee, I noted an unusually large number of hits coming from Fark.com to my post on a NEJM article detailing lead poisoning cases among marijuana users in Germany.

In that article, lead shavings were used to boost dime bags that were "a little light." The combustion of the particles lead to lead poisoning in users and is one of the few scenarios where use of a chelating agent ((2,3-dimercaptosuccinic acid; DMSA; succimer; Chemet®) was both indicated and effective.

Turns out that the Fark.com hits today are coming from a forum thread discussing a story at ABC News on the use of US National Parks as sites of marijuana cultivation by so-called Mexican marijuana cartels. The primary point of the article is that pesticides and herbicides available in Mexico but banned in the US for safety reasons are being spread across these swaths of protected forests, leaving environmental issues behind when the groups are busted as well as a safety hazard for those purchasing the plant from such cultivation operations.

We've actually had our own issues back East with organized pot plantings run not by environmental-minded stoners but, instead, the migrant and often-undocumented farm workers who we exploit for picking fruits and vegetables, risking birth defects in their kids to keep our food prices low.

Some are helping to mind relatively large plantings of marijuana and these plots are now being scouted by state helicopters, just as in California. Even in the conservative South, where moonshine alcohol was the illicit trade of the last century, you've got a good number of folks who ask if monies aren't better spent on other more relevant crimes:

After news of the big Harnett County bust in June traveled across the country, Harnett Sheriff Larry Rollins says, he was inundated with calls and e-mail from people questioning the value of putting so many resources to work on investigations that rarely result in arrests. When charges are made, they are usually for manufacturing or trafficking marijuana. Even then, police say, the courts treat the charges lightly.

And at $340/hour for the helicopters alone, you've got to ask if some of the "operations" aren't a bit overzealous:

In one, Sheriff's Capt. Alex Fish said, spotters found seven plants in a man's vegetable garden. In another, they found one plant in a pot on a man's back porch.

"Bless his heart," Fish said. "It's kind of hard to deny the marijuana plant on your back doorstep."

Perhaps the gentlemen were putting their faith in their own growing methods rather than risk buying marijuana laden with pesticides.

Seriously, can you imagine the amount of money spent on detecting and prosecuting people with 1 or 7 marijuana plants on their porches or in their garden?

Instead, how about investing that money in the DonorsChoose.org teachers' projects in their economically depressed communities?

*The quote in the title came from Agent Patrick Foy of the California Department of Fish and Game. Agent Foy estimated in the ABC News story that 1.5 pounds of fertilizers and pesticides is used for every 11.5 plants.

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Been happening for a long time. I remember I was listening to 94.7 (KLOS?) in Los Angeles in the winter of 1977-1978 on the very night the Mexican Paraquat story broke and Paraquat Kelly got his handle due to the hours-long tirade he gave vent to in condemnation of the spraying.

There are two failures in this practice: first our beloved DEA for choosing that strategy of extending their employment sinecures, also for not telling us they are doing it, and second the artificial illegality of pot growing which attracts unsavory types who then harvest early and sell the crop anyway. Also without declaration.

By GrayGaffer (not verified) on 12 Oct 2008 #permalink

now imagine the sum of effects on the brain... heavy marijuana use plus pesticides that are probably highly lipophilic.

you can't account for this kind of variable thing, which is only part of what makes research so complex.

Legalize it, regulate it, and tax it. Like alcohol, merchants should be prosecuted for selling tainted or contaminated product. It could be sold according to its THC content, with the more powerful stuff being more expensive (similar to the way that alcohol is sold in different forms with varying alcohol percentages).

You'd have a few heavy stoners no doubt, and then you'd probably have a lot of folks using it moderately, and a few using it for medical reasons (to help with migraine headaches or whatever).

Not to mention it would eliminate the entire illegal (and dangerous) marijuana trade.

Why aren't the taxpayers making money off marijuana instead of the criminals?

You know, this country has real problems right now. Some guy with a pot plant in his backyard isn't one of them.

The nearly complete inability of our public officials to properly prioritize what they should be working on never ceases to amaze me.

GrayGaffer, indeed, the herbicide paraquat was used widely in the 1970s but in eradication efforts by the DEA and not by growers themselves. The current story primarily discusses the pesticides used by growers in national parks and the use of herbicides to kill off native growth around the marijuana plots.

The argument by yogi-one is certainly valid, particularly given current economic pressures.

leigh, do you know many (any?) people in pharm/tox studying this aspect of cannabis toxicity?

well, there is essentially no toxicity associated with cannabis alone. this pulls a lot of focus off all other sources of potential toxicity such as pesticides and additives, though a nod is given to other illicit drugs that may be present in various street sources of marijuana.

i can't even imagine trying to get that proposal funded, to be honest. consider the variability in sources, trafficking, etc- nothing is going to be consistent enough to justify that.

there is essentially no toxicity associated with cannabis alone

That is false. There are many acute toxic effects of "cannabis alone". Dependence is one major lasting toxic effect of "cannabis alone".

with respect to lasting alterations in cognitive function apart from dependence your statement is too strong. it implies a certainty where there is none. a failure to clearly establish a causal role of cannabis or one of it's psychoactive constituents like delta9THC because of a host of complicating factors in the human population is not quite the same thing as demonstrating "essentially no toxicity".

Well, to be fair, this is only if you're buying shwag... Here in Cali, you buy Cali grown, know not only your dealer but your grower (usually one in the same). As mentioned above, good reason to legalize. I've never even seen anything grown outside of California

BUT there's no getting around the fact you are inhaling smoke (organic matter), and carbon dioxide. Now if you vaporize, we start a whole new argument...

jj, out here in the Southeast, the locally-grown food movement has gotten so popular that people will routinely pay a premium at restaurants for veggies and meats from within a 50-mile radius.

If Cali-grown engenders a similar sort of consumer confidence and pride, then so be it.

well DM, i figured i'd see something from you after making that statement. i meant it in the sense that one cannot overdose and say, go into severe respiratory depression and die.

i don't know if i would call acute intoxication nor long term dependence/cns alterations "toxicity" but quibbling over semantics is no fun. suffice to say i did not mean it in that manner. my entire scientific existence is based upon those effects being present. :)

morbidity vs mortality, that's what i'm trying to get at. looking back at my last comment, it's foolish to not say that acute intoxication is toxicity. i meant it in the sense that mj does not kill people. it's getting late and i am going to shut up now.

Yep. Another good reason to make pot legal...and organically grown! Could be a good selling point...

By Catharine (not verified) on 13 Nov 2009 #permalink