Impacts of Cannabis Farming on The Emerald Triangle

Part 1 

 “Make the most you can of the Indian Hemp seed and sow it everywhere!” (Washington, 1794). We followed this advice, but it was with little thought of the impact that overproduction has on natural resources.  Named from being the largest cannabis-producing region in the United States, the Emerald Triangle comprises Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity Counties (“Emerald Triangle,” 2018). This region produces some of the best cannabis in the world. With this fame, growers developed strains unique to the area’s biodiversity (Parker Karris, 2018). However, this success comes with heavy environmental and socioeconomic impacts. This report will focus on how legal commercial cannabis production in the Emerald Triangle is creating forest fragmentation, stream modifications, soil erosion, and poisoning wildlife. It will also address how the profits of this industry cause socioeconomic controversy, affecting the decision making of policy makers and planners (Berke, 2018).

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Since the legalization of recreational marijuana in California, demand for the product has increased. With increased demand, the Emerald Triangle has experienced a land rush. People want in on this new market. Most land being sold is undeveloped and preparing a site to grow marijuana involves cutting down interior forests and making roads (Davis, 2018). The journal Environmental Research Letters looked at 4400 grow sites in Humboldt County, California. They discovered 68% of grow sites were over 500 meters from the main road, causing road construction to the sites, forest fragmentation, and loss of habitat for woodland creatures. An additional 22% were on steep slopes, increasing soil erosion, sedimentation, and landslides (Butsic & Brenner, 2016).

 Marijuana, like many crops, requires a great deal of water. During the flowering stage, plants consume up to six gallons, per plant, per day. Add that to the estimated 297 954 plants and water consumption would be near 700 000 m3 a day. Farms have been diverting the area’s rivers for irrigation. This practice has completely dried up streams that endangered salmon use to spawn (Ashworth and Vizuete, 2017).

            Pesticide spraying in Marijuana is much like other crops, but with one major difference. Marijuana is still illegal on a federal level and no regulatory oversight exists. Grow Operations in California have poisoned bears, owls, foxes, and other creatures by them ingesting poisons intended for other pests (Gianotti, A. G., Harrower, J., Baird, G., & Sepaniak, S., 2017). Of these rodenticides, one found in the tested crops was Carbofuran, which is a powerful neurotoxin banned in the United States and Canada (Thompson, Gabriel Purcell, 2018).

On top of the towering environmental issues, a socioeconomic controversy remains.

Politicians claim there is a moral issue in legalizing marijuana, but in contrast, they allow automatic firearms, opioids, tobacco, and alcohol. The real incentive to keep marijuana illegal is Section 280E, a tax provision blocking illegal businesses from making tax claims. Because marijuana remains a schedule 1 drug, businesses can’t write off business expenses, even in states where marijuana is legal. As a result, the IRS saves an estimated $500 million a year on those tax write-offs (“How Much Money is the U.S. Government Making by Keeping Weed Illegal?”, 2018).

Police forces and private jails enjoy federal funding in the war on drugs. Law enforcement agencies collected over $1 billion from marijuana arrests and receive grants of over $2.4 billion to support marijuana enforcement. Marijuana legalization would impact several industries such as alcohol, tobacco, private prisons, and Big Pharma. As a result, they lobby the government to keep cannabis illegal (“How Much Money is the U.S. Government Making by Keeping Weed Illegal?”, 2018). When you examine the profits made from socioeconomic controversies, it becomes easy to see why policymakers are keeping marijuana illegal for as long as possible.

Offsetting these issues can start at a cooperative farming level. Farmers can capitalize on the thought many cannabis users are environmentally friendly consumers and would pay a premium for cannabis grown sustainably (Gomez, 2018). Farms can adopt closed-loop farming, where everything that grows on the land, goes back into the land. Plant waste can go into nutrient mixes, compost, and pest repellants. Add Organic Farming, which has shown to decrease soil erosion by supporting weed development in the furrows. Take this a step further and farmers can apply mulches made from dead leaves and shredded wood on the soil. Over time mulches from organic materials break down and increase the structure and nutrients in the soil (Lori, Symnaczik, Mäder, Deyn, & Gattinger, 2017).

            Water diversion has been a major issue to the Emerald Triangle. To help offset water consumption emerging technologies and practices can be used. An irrigation system capable of saving rivers from water diversion is gravity fed irrigations systems. These collect rainwater into reservoirs, supplying the rainwater to the crops through gravity feed drip irrigation (Bhatnagar & Srivastava, 2003). To maximize efficiency, farmers can automate the system and sync it with a weather app. The app can let the system know when it will rain, so the irrigation system can shut off in advance. Studies have shown that installing a gravity-fed irrigation system reduce water usage by 50% and increase yields by 33% (“Proximity Designs Gravity-Fed Drip Irrigation Systems”, n.d.) These approaches can take cannabis farming past sustainable farming, into regenerative farming. Farming practices that increase biodiversity, enrich soils, improve watersheds, and enhance the ecosystem (“Sustainability Is Not Enough”, 1998).

Part 2

            Cannabis dominates the Emerald Triangle, helping the economy after the collapse of the fishing and timber industries (Meisel, 2017). Cannabis is an exciting new way for investors to make money and a solid way for the area to regenerate their economy. From an ecological viewpoint, many of the economic systems are irrational; although they are rational to the individual business or capitalist looking to make a profit.

            Cannabis flower averages around $2,100 per pound, and each acre of land produces over 500 pounds of usable dry cannabis flower. Marijuana is also grown from cuttings, so you are starting with mature plants that need little vegetation time. This allows farmers to turn four crops per year. Estimations of the total marijuana market in the Emerald Triangle is tens of billions of dollars, larger than many traditional agricultural products, like grapes or corn. The communities’ in the area are using this newly found tax revenue to build schools, fix roads and strengthen their economy. A Mendocino County study estimates that two-thirds of the community’s economy is from marijuana (“Why California’s Emerald Triangle Produces The Best Weed In The World,” 2017). Above we discussed how there is a logical economic worldview given the incentives and demands for a capitalist market, but let’s review ecological views that oppose capitalism.  

            The growth of the industrial revolution in the 19th century separated people from the land used to make food. Further separation occurred when factory farming separating animals from the land used for food production. When livestock inhibits your farm, the by-product is used as organic fertilizer, thus, eliminating the needs to truck in large quantities of fertilizers. The impact of using commercial fertilizers are energy use in mining, production, transportation and application, combined with pollution and decreasing soil health through loss of organic matter and erosion (Dupej, 2018).

            There is a loss of biodiversity as farmers eliminate native plants to grow crops. Losing native plant species drives a loss of natural resilience over disease and pests. There is also a loss in diversity in the soil as they grow single crops using the organic matter in soil without replenishing it (Dupej, 2018). Another loss of diversity is the loss of genetic diversity. Although this has not affected the Marijuana industry yet, large corporations are looking to patent genetically modified cannabis (Arsenault, 2018). This would cause the areas crops to lose that natural resilience to pest and disease that genetically diverse crops have.   

            Modern day farming relies on significant inputs of energy from fossil fuels. It’s easy to think about driving down the highway passing a huge tractor tilling the field, but most of the energy expenditure is through production and application of nitrogen fertilizer. Significant energy is used to convert the nitrogen gas from the atmosphere to a form that can be used by plants. Fertilizer production also comes with the bi-product that large amounts of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide are released into the atmosphere, causing an increased buildup of Greenhouse Gasses in the atmosphere (Mulvaney, Khan, & Ellsworth, 2009).

            In conclusion, the push from the ecological views to protect the environment contrast the pulls from the economic views to maximize profit. The economic world produces an abundance of waste; true nutrient cycling is lost; pollution is created; crops are not rotated; biodiversity is lost; among other problems to maximize profit. Contrast this to the ecological world where individual cooperatives would supply the local economy with an adequate quantity, quality, and variety of cannabis while managing land in ways that benefit the ecosystem. The sustainably of the land would be achieved by working with the ecosystems, instead of dominating them. To gain this farming, we would have to build a new socioeconomic structure, based on meeting the needs of the people and land, instead of striving for “more”.



Ashworth, K., & Vizuete, W. (2017). High Time to Assess the Environmental Impacts of Cannabis Cultivation. Environmental Science & Technology, 51(5), 2531–2533.

Bauer, S., Olson, J., Cockrill, A., van Hattem, M., Miller, L., Tauzer, M., & Leppig, G. (2015). Impacts of Surface Water Diversions for Marijuana Cultivation on Aquatic Habitat in Four Northwestern California Watersheds. PLOS ONE, 10(3), e0120016.

Berke, J. (2018). Marijuana legalization could inject over $130 billion into US tax coffers by 2025 — if the Trump administration stays hands-off. Retrieved November 10, 2018, from

Bhatnagar, P., & Srivastava, R. (2003). Gravity-fed drip irrigation system for hilly terraces of the northwest Himalayas. Irrigation Science, 21(4), 151–157.

Butsic, V., & Brenner, J. C. (2016). Cannabis ( Cannabis sativa or C. indica ) agriculture and the environment: a systematic, spatially-explicit survey and potential impacts. Environmental Research Letters, 11(4), 044023.

Davis, C. A. (2017, December 7). In California, the land rush is on, but is there enough water? Retrieved November 13, 2018, from

Dupej, S. (Nov 5 – Nov 10). Agriculture and Food. Lecture Notes.

Dupej, S. (Sept 17 – Sept 22). Human Relationships with Nature: Worldviews. Lecture Notes.

Emerald Triangle. (2018). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from

Gianotti, A. G., Harrower, J., Baird, G., & Sepaniak, S. (2017). The quasi-legal challenge: Assessing and governing the environmental impacts of cannabis cultivation in the North Coastal Basin of California. Land Use Policy, 61, 126-134. doi:10.1016/j.landusepol.2016.11.016

Gomez, B. (2018). What are Cannabis Consumers Willing to Pay More For? Retrieved November 10, 2018, from

How Much Money is the U.S. Government Making by Keeping Weed Illegal? [REVEALED]. (2018, February 20). Retrieved November 12, 2018, from

Lori, M., Symnaczik, S., Mäder, P., Deyn, G. D., & Gattinger, A. (2017). Organic farming enhances soil microbial abundance and activity—A meta-analysis and meta-regression. PLOS ONE, 12(7), e0180442.

Meisel, J. (2017). Hidden in Plain Sight: Cannabis Cultivation in the Emerald Triangle. The California Geographer, Volume 56, pp.5-7.

Mulvaney, R. L., Khan, S. A., & Ellsworth, T. R. (2009). Synthetic Nitrogen Fertilizers Deplete Soil Nitrogen: A Global Dilemma for Sustainable Cereal Production. Journal of Environmental Quality, 38(6), 2295–2314.

Oct 13, C. A. · C. N. · P., & October 16, 2018 4:00 AM ET | Last Updated: (2018, October 13). Investors rush to patent genetically modified cannabis molecules | CBC News. Retrieved November 12, 2018, from

Parker Karris, B. (2018). Why California’s Emerald Triangle Produces The Best Weed In The World | KINDLAND. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Nov. 2018].

Ponce, M. (2018). Environmental Impacts of Cannabis Cultivation in California. p.26.

Proximity Designs Gravity-Fed Drip Irrigation Systems. (n.d.). Retrieved November 11, 2018, from

Sustainability Is Not Enough’ : Why Cannabis Growers Are Looking To Regenerative Farming | Pure Farms. (n.d.). Retrieved November 8, 2018, from

Thompson, C., Gabriel, M. and Purcell, K. (2018). An ever-changing ecological battlefield: marijuana cultivation and toxicant use in western forests. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Nov. 2018].

Wang, I. J., Brenner, J. C., & Butsic, V. (2017). Cannabis, an emerging agricultural crop, leads to deforestation and fragmentation. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 15(9), 495–501.

Washington, G. (1794). The Writings of George Washington, Volume 33. [Letter] Library of Congress.


Triangle Fire and the Rights of Immigrant Workers in the US

Triangle Fire: Burning into the Conscience of the United States

 During the early 20th century, there was a great surge of immigrants in search of the American Dream in the United States, which promised the opportunity to pursue economic success and personal liberty. Rather than being welcomed by beautiful, comfortable homes and streets paved with gold as they dreamed of moving to America, small and ill-conditioned tenements located in the Lower East Side of New York City and fast-paced jobs with demoralizing working conditions for meager pay welcomed them instead. Immigrants had come to understand that the American Dream depended on their willingness to work, even if it would cost them their life. However, one of the deadliest industrial crises took place on March 25th, 1911. A fire broke in Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in downtown Manhattan burning 146 individuals, mostly immigrant women, teenagers even, into ashes, and burning a hole into the conscience of America because it could have been prevented. Although these immigrant workers would do anything for these jobs, these workers demanded more labor rights and improved the working conditions for Americans through a massive strike called Uprising of the 20,000 because of successfully changing the public opinion on meager pay and hours, lack of personal space and safety measures, and ill-treatment by their employers in the workplace.

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 The Uprising of the 20,000 was a strike that emerged as a result of the demoralizing working conditions. The prevalent business competition in the early 20th century caused factories to operate at breakneck speed with little to no government regulations due to laissez-fair, a policy which claimed that the economic system should be free from government intervention. Thus, it prevented the government from ensuring the factory workers’ safety and well being. The employers freely did what they wanted, which was to have continuous manufacturing to get as much cloth turned into a product at the lowest possible price, regardless of the well-being of their employees because according to Rose Schneiderman, a prominent union leader, there were a vast amount of employees for one job that it did not matter much if these workers were burned to death because in the eyes of the employers, these immigrants were dispensable in a snap of a finger (Argersinger 105). According to Clara Lemlich, the leader of the Uprising of 20,000, many workers worked for seven days straight and for long hours, from seven in the morning to eight in the evening for meager pay with only a half-hour break to rest and eat (Argersinger 56). The workers in the factory earned three to seven dollars per week at most depending on the work that they do. Moreover, they get charged about two dollars whenever a cloth had been damaged and when there was a low demand for clothes. These deducted wages posed limitations on what the workers could afford; the workers ate dry cakes for weeks (Argersinger 56). Since they never had enough money to purchase new clothes and hats, they took worn-out clothes from women who earned six to seven dollars a week. Also, the factory did not provide a safe and comfortable environment for its workers as working stations were described as crowded. The women and young girls had to hang their belongings on hooks along the walls rather than having their own lockers (Argersinger 56). The owners fit hundreds of workers on each floor. It was arranged in a way that every possible space on the floor was occupied by a machine, hardly leaving elbow room or personal space for workers. No necessary safety precautions were implemented because the law did not require them; it was an option. Therefore, there were no fire drills, no plans, and even sprinklers in the factories; it was a man-made disaster waiting to happen. Other than their bosses deducting their salaries without disclosing the reasons why they did so, their bosses also treated them poorly. The women were viewed as part of the machines producing clothing because the employers did not treat them with respect as they used offensive language to talk to their workers and were yelled at and even called them names every day (Argersinger 56). At the end of the day, employees were searched like thieves. They were searched for stolen cloth and other materials from the factory (Argersinger 11). These conditions resulted in a hostile working environment for immigrant workers because they should have felt secure and respected in the workplace. Fortunately, the relationship between the workers and the public was not only different but better. The uprising of the 20,000 was the first large strike of women in the country, mainly teenage immigrants many of whom did not speak English. They demanded change by wanting to reform labor laws and alongside them were middle class and upper-class women supporters, which attracted widespread attention. They fought for the rights that should have been given to them in the first place: the right to be free from any type of harassment in the workplace, the right to fair wages and hours, and the right to a safe workplace free from potential safety hazards. Due to this, the state of New York was forced to pass new laws that guarantee workers’ safety. Although these new laws were too late for those who perished from the fire, it improved America’s working conditions overall. The documents suggest that workers are humans, they should be working in a place where they are safe in cases of emergency or accidents and the workers should be able to enjoy the fruits of their hard labor. It improved the public’s perspective on working conditions and strengthened unions. It made people realize that many do not take caution of horrible conditions unless a great disaster, like the Triangle Fire, happens.

The Triangle Fire on March 25th, 1911 was one of the deadliest industrial catastrophes in the history of the United States of America as numerous lives were taken and thousands of women mourn for the victims of the fire. On a larger scale, it served as a cautionary tale, which redefined the American industrial workplace because it made people realize the significance of working conditions. In the end, it encouraged fire prevention and inspired state and national safety codes to become more of a routine to prevent this disaster from happening ever again.

Works Cited

Argersinger, Jo Ann E. The Triangle Fire: a Brief History with Documents. Bedford/St Martins, 2016.


Fire Triangle 🔥 The Chemistry of Fire

Unit 36 – Forensic Fire Investigation
Fire Tetrahedron

Here is a diagram of the fire tetrahedron.

This diagram shows the three elements that have to be present in order for a fire to occur. Combustion only occurs when flammable vapours are mixed with oxygen and are ignited by a spark or flame.
1. Fuel;
A fuel is any substance that can undergo combustion such as wood, plastics, rubber, fabric, petrol, cooking oil, nail vanish remover, butane, natural gases and propane. This is needed to fuel the fire.
Organic fuels contain carbon hydrogen and oxygen in varying ratio’s in some cases, nitrogen will be present such as wood, plastics, gasoline, alcohol and natural gases.
Inorganic fuels contain no carbon and include combustible metals such as magnesium or sodium.
2. Oxygen;
Oxygen is need for a fire to begin because when oxygen in the air combines with flammable vapours given off by fuels they create a form of heat at a molecular level.
3. Heat;
Heat is produced in a fire when oxygen and flammable vapours from the fuels combine, once this happens a source of ignition is the needed to cause it to combust.
Primary Sources of Ignition
Ignition is “the act or process of initiating combustion.” (, 2012).
A primary source of ignition is when you expose a flammable object to an open flame and causes fire directly.
Here are a number of primary sources of ignition;

Cooking Appliances
Space-heating Appliances
Electric Wiring, Connections or Terminations
Other Electrical Appliances e.g. washing machines, bed warmers and televisions.
Gas Lighters
Blow Torches
Welding torches

Secondary Sources of Ignition
A secondary source of ignition is where a flammable object is heated until its burning point. During a house fire the primary source will be ignited which will then cause a secondary source to ignite which will ignite the furniture. According to the Journal of Fire Sciences “An important aspect of many secondary sources is that they frequently occur in areas where they use cannot easily be controlled or restricted.”
Examples of secondary sources of ignition are;

Waste paper baskets
Soft toys

Methods of Extinction
A fire can be extinguish if any of three components in the fire triangle that cause a fire (heat, oxygen and fuel) are removed.
Removal of Heat
To remove heat from a fire or cool a fire, water is most commonly used. Water has great heat absorbing properties. The water is able to extinguish a fire as it is able to absorb more heat than the fire is generating.
Removal of Oxygen
A fire can be extinguish by removing or limiting its oxygen supply. To do this it is known as blanketing or smothering. You do not need to remove all of the oxygen supply to extinguish a fire, a reduction of oxygen below 6% is sufficient enough to extinguish a fire. Examples are snuffing out a lit candle, placing a lid on a chip pan fire and closing doors and windows; if there is a fire in a room it may burn itself out.
Removal of Fuel
According to, 2014;

“A fire will go out if deprived of its fuel supply. A fire caused by a gas; leak can be extinguished by turning off the gas. If pallets are stacked in the open, rather than against a warehouse wall, they will eventually burn out, leaving the warehouse and its contents out of danger.”

Heat Transfer

“Heat can be transferred from place to place by conduction, convection and radiation. Dark matt surfaces are better at absorbing heat energy than light shiny surfaces. Heat energy can be lost from homes in many different ways and there are ways of reducing these heat losses.” (, 2014)

Heat energy can move through a substances by conduction, metals are very good conductor’s heat, whereas non-metals and gases are poor conductors of heat. The poor conductors are called insulators. The heat energy is conducted from the hot end to the cool end of an object.
The electrons in a piece of metal can leave their atoms and are free to move around in the metal as free electrons. The parts of the metal that have left behind atoms become charged metal ions, the ions are packed closely together and vibrate continually. The hotter the metal the more kinetic energy the vibrations gain, this energy is then transferred from the hotter parts of the metal to the cooler parts by the free electrons. As these electrons move around in the metal they collide with ions as they go. (, 2014)
The particles in liquids and gases are able to move around more freely, as they are not packed together like solids. Convection occurs when particles in liquids and gases with a lot of heat energy move and take the places of particles with less heat energy, this is how heat energy is transferred using convection.
All objects give out and take in thermal radiation which is also known as infrared radiation. The hotter an objects gets the more infrared radiation it emits.
Infrared radiations is a type of electromagnetic radiation that involves waves instead of particles unlike convection and conduction. Due to this radiation can even work through the vacuum of space. This is why we are able to feel heat of the sun even though it is 150 million km away from the earth.
Different Types of Fire
House Fires
House fires are fires that break out within the home and there are many different causes for them such as;

Careless smoking
Lit candles
Electrically appliances getting left on
Cooking equipment
Heating equipment
Children playing with fire inside
Inadequate wiring
Flammable liquids
Christmas tree decorations

A house fire could spread by either conduction, convection or radiation depending on which one of the above started the fire. If the fire is a small fire within the house a fire blanket or water can be used to extinguish it. If you have access to fire extinguishers a water extinguisher is good for burning paper, wood or soft furnishings, a foam extinguisher is good for an arson fire, as petrol or other fuels would probably have been used. Then a CO2 extinguisher is good for putting out fires caused by electrical appliances. If the fire has spread through most of the house and is a lot bigger, then the fire brigade would put the fire out with water. Wet chemical extinguishers were designed to extinguish fires in the kitchen involving burning oil and deep fat fryers. House fires can be prevent by being careful when using appliances, flammable liquids, candles and decorations, they could also be prevented by getting your electrics check every year or so.
Wildfires are fires that break out in the wilderness, the causes of them include;

Unattended campfires
Burning of debris
Carelessly discarding of cigarettes

A wildfire would generally spread by convection, as they would be in contact with an open flame which could be one of the following. A wildfire could be extinguish by a helicopter or plane throwing water over the fire from above or by the fire brigade with water, They could also be put out with leaf blowers, as this will blow the fire in the direction that it has already been meaning it has nothing else to catch fire too. Wildfires can be prevent by using fire breaks, people to comply with laws and regulations and never leave a fire unattended.
Petrol Fires
Petrol is a dangerous substance and it is a highly flammable liquid. The petrol gives off a vapour which can easily be set on fire if it is not handled safely. The causes of a petrol fire are;

Petrol Leak
Car Crash
Spark at Petrol Station e.g. using a mobile phone, smoking.

Petrol fires are able to spread using conduction and convection, to extinguish these types of fires a foam extinguisher, CO2 extinguisher or a powder extinguisher is best being used. As these extinguisher will place a layer of powder or foam over the fire starving it of oxygen. These can be prevent by people not smoking or using their mobile phone at a petrol station and people comply with laws and regulations.
Journal of Fire Science – Standard Flaming Ignition Sources for Upholstered Composties, Furniture and Bed Assembly Tests.
Reference List
Chubb (2014) Methods of Fire Extinction. Available at:,,pageId=14542&siteId=403,00.html
(Accessed on: 11th February 2015) (2012) Ignition. Available at:
(Accessed on: 10th February 2015)
GCSE Bitesize (2014) Heat Transfer and efficiency. Available at:
(Accessed on: 11th Febrauary 2014)
K.T. Paul & S.D Christian. (1987) ‘Standard Flaming Ignition Sources for Upholstered Composties, Furniture and Bed Assembly Tests.’ Journal of Fire Sciences, 178 (5), pp 179
(Accessed on: 11th February 2015)