While most Americans approve marijuana legalization and increasing access to cannabis, there's one demographic no one's talking about who would probably oppose legalization: Owls.
It turns out there have been reports of a large number of owls dying near marijuana farms, particularly in northern California. And before a crazy anti-marijuana advocate begins blaming cannabis for the deaths, it's actually only the indirect cause. Just like humans are attracted to the smell of marijuana, so are mice and rats. To deal with this problem, most illegal marijuana farms put rat poison near the crops to kill off the rodents. Unfortunately, this also means that nearby owls who feed upon those mice are also being exposed to the poison and eventually dying.
Scientists from the University of California, Davis, and the California Academy of Sciences found traces of rat poison in seven out of 10 dead spotted owls that were found near marijuana farms. This is particularly problematic since the spotted owl is an endangered species under U.S. and California law. Barred owls are also known to live near spotted owls and are being affected as well. All in all, about 40 percent of all dead owls tested by the scientists were positive for rat poison.
Many illegal marijuana farms set up shop in areas that are near wooded areas, which is also where spotted owls set up their habitats. And it's hard to imagine a way to help regulate the problem. In Humboldt County in California alone, there have been estimates of up to 15,000 illegal marijuana grow operations. Even if some of these illegal sites were shutdown or converted to legal operations with regulations from the government, there would still be plenty of farms without any rules for their behavior.
The scientists are hoping with more evidence, they'll convince the government to step in and protect the endangered species.