Keepin’ Marijuana Pure

For those in favor of legalizing marijuana, this week brought some welcome news. In a sharp reversal from the Bush administration, the Justice Department has told federal prosecutors to lay off the potheads - well, at least those using marijuana for "medical" purposes in those few states that actually allow medical marijuana use. But hey, every little step helps. Pro-legalization group NORML is hopeful a tipping point may be on the horizon, maybe even within five years, Kevin Stroup, the group's founder, told us. Polls vary widely, but a Gallup poll conducted in early October showed that 44% of respondents favored legalization. And those numbers will only increase as the population ages, Stroup said.

Yet if America decides to bring marijuana into the legal light, the marijuana movement will face another problem: the quality of the product. "It's definitely a big concern for us what a legal (marijuana) market would look like," NORML's executive director Allen St. Pierre said.

Already, a large portion of marijuana on the streets is, shall we say, less than organic. In this episode of A Minute of Your Time, we take a look at illegal marijuana groves on remote public lands. These groves use toxic chemicals and pesticides that pollute the natural environment and are a health hazard to users.

As bad as that sounds, a regulated industry might not make things much better. One fear is that marijuana could go the way of tobacco, using a 100 or more added chemicals that up the potency and help keep the price down.

Yet even organically grown marijuana may not be good enough. There's growing concern about environmental damage caused by marijuana cultivation. For example, some of the best mulch to grow marijuana in is made of Peruvian bat dung.

And this is "highly exploitative," NORML's St. Pierre said. "You have white yuppy Americans disrupting bats' natural environments" just to get their organic marijuana.

- Ivan Weiss