Marijuana Cultivation Effects On 'cognitive Human Functions,ecosystems & Environment'

By Taiwo Lawrence Adeyemi

Habitat is immediately lost and the surrounding forests are weakened by edge effects and increased foraging pressures from displaced wildlife. Half of deforestation occurring in Nigeria's rainforest and forest reserves is tales and trails of marijuana cultivation, popularly called 'cannabis sativa'.

A report by UNODC revealed marijuana to be the most consumed drug in Nigeria, being consumed by an estimated 10.8 percent of the population, which roughly translated to 10.6 million Nigerians.

When cultivated, marijuana actually captures carbon emissions from the atmosphere. Essentially, hemp helps sequester or “trap” carbon from the air into plants. For every ton of marijuana produced, 1.63 tons of carbon is removed from the air.

“Marijuana is seen as Africa’s most problematic drug. Marijuana users command most of the treatment berths in Africa because imported drugs are too expensive for most local users to afford."

"Marijuana is one of the few drugs that can be grown with little experience and consumed with little processing. It grows well in many African climates and, as a result, it is cheap, often cheaper than alcohol for those seeking intoxication.”

With 192 million users in 2019, marijuana is by far the most popular drug worldwide.

Findings from one investigation state that, in 2019 the world’s largest banks invested over $2.6 trillion dollars through financing in sectors believed to be primary drivers of biodiversity destruction.

A 2017 report by 'Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment' stated that, "Timber has greater landscape impacts overall, marijuana causes far greater changes in key metrics on a per-unit area-basis. Marijuana grows resulted in 1 - 5 times more forest loss and a 2 - 5 times greater fragmentation of the landscape, breaking up large contiguous forests into smaller patches and reducing wildlife habitat."

It is estimated that four hectares of rainforest are destroyed for every hectare of marijuana, most often through slash-and-burn farming method technique. Marijuana cultivation often necessitates a significant amount of energy due to environmental conditions regulations.

High levels of greenhouse gas emission and energy consumption occur due to this. In 2016, it was estimated that one kilogram of marijuana released 4,600 kilograms of carbon dioxide on average.

According to The Africa Regional Hemp and Cannabis Report, “Marijuana production in Africa currently stands at around 38,000 tones and consumption rates at 13.2 percent and with climate, affordable land and low-cost labor, offer enormous opportunities in a market that could exceed $7.1 billion dollars by 2023. And the continent's total marijuana value is estimated at $37.3 billion dollars by 2018, accounting for 11 percent of the global value and global market projected to hit $43 billion dollars in 2024.”

The combined economic values of legal and illegal global marijuana markets have been estimated at $214 - $344 billion dollars. Legal markets are projected to grow significantly by 2025, with global markets remaining dominated by illicit channels.

Marijuana is the most commonly used drug in the world. Almost 160 million people used marijuana in 2005, equivalent to 3.8 percent of the global population. In Africa, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes [UNODC] estimates that there were about 38.2 million marijuana users in 2005, equivalent to 7.7 percent of the African population aged 15 – 64. The highest rates within Africa are found in West and Central Africa [Congo Basin Countries] - 13 percent and in Southern Africa – 8.5 percent.

Planting marijuana for commercial production in remote locations is creating forest fragmentation, stream modifications, soil erosion and landslides. Without land use policies to limit its environmental footprint, the impacts of marijuana farming could get worse on the ecosystems, forests and biodiversity. Environmental damage, rodenticide, poisoning of forest mammals and dewatering of streams due to improper irrigation.

As demand for the market keeps soaring from marijuana, crops can come in within 6 - 8 months of planting and generate 2 - 3 times more money than double gotten from cultivating other food crops. With huge profits and low cost of production, marijuana cultivation is now a thriving ‘tropical rainforest destructive’ business in the Congo Basin Rainforest regions.

Concealed within the forests, marijuana growers clear-cut and often burned large patches of land to plant their crops. Because the plants need a full twelve hours of sunlight, the canopy and any competing plants must be removed completely.

The intense and large forest foraging the background completely surrounds the marijuana plantation, making detection impossible except on information and tip off.Marijuana leaves small spatial footprints but has potentially significant environmental impacts”, Jake Brenner.

“And as the legal market for marijuana develops and the illegal market[s] continues to thrive, policy makers and planners are tasked with regulating marijuana cultivation, distribution, and consumption in new ways. To also mitigate these impacts, policy makers and planners need to enact specific environmental and land-use regulations to control marijuana crop expansion and cultivation during its early stage of developing”, he said

Marijuana plants produce ‘Volatile Organic Compounds’ or ‘VOCs’ that can produce harmful pollutants, “if plants produce ‘voc’, there is a high possibility that under certain conditions, marijuana cultivation could impact the ozone.”

According to medical experts, some of the negative effects of indulgence in marijuana include; liver problems, heart diseases, lungs problem, poor coordination, immune system suppression, reduction of male sex hormones, reduced sexual capacity paranoia and short term memory loss.

A new study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine has found that, "intake of marijuana may affect the cognitive functions of people - including the ability to think, make decisions and solve problems."

According to the research, "tetrahydrocannabinol [THC], the main psychoactive compound in marijuana has a negative effect on the brain's higher level of thinking."

"Parents should be aware that adolescents using marijuana are at risk for damages to their most important organ, their brain."

"Marijuana could impair the executive functions of the brain which includes the ability to make decisions, remember important data, plan, organise and solve problems, as well as control emotions and behaviours", the research concludes

Indiscriminately clear grow-sites and show little respect for the environment. Run-off from pesticides, herbicides, including; DDT poses risks to wildlife, plant life and aquatic life nearby. Arsenic poisons are used to kill small animals and rodents, which in turn can devastate the food chain and area water supplies.

"William Vizuete, associate professor at the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Public Health, along with a team from the University of Colorado Boulder and England’s Lancaster Environment Centre, grew four strains of marijuana in an enclosed chamber over 90 days. During that time, the team measured the terpene release and used their findings to calculate the emissions potential in a full-scale outdoor grow."

"The team concluded that marijuana has the potential to more than double the existing rate of Volatile Organic Compounds [VOCs] in the atmosphere."

"This is concerning because VOCs interact with other contaminants in the environment to create ozone, an unstable toxic gas."

"Vizuete and his team estimated that the added VOCs caused by marijuana cultivation can produce more than 2,000 metric tons of ozone per year—from the marijuana market alone."

Deforestation contributes to soil degradation, land sinking, increases malaria disease prevalence and other environmental problems [issues]. The cultivation of illicit crops and the numerous attempts to eradicate such vegetation can devastate the ecosystem.

Conservator – General, National Park Service [NPS], Dr. Ibrahim Goni, says, 60 percent of Nigeria’s valuable forest estate has been lost to degradation and most of those left are currently under threat.

The United Nations, as well as experts at the World Wildlife Fund [WWF] and Global Forest Watch [GFW] found that one million animals are in danger of extinction as a result of how much deforestation has occurred.

Tropical rainforests, for example, which have remained relatively undisturbed for around 20 million years are said to provide at least one third of the oxygen we all need.

Chairman/Chief Executive of NDLEA, Brigadier Muhammadu Buba Marwa [retd], explained that a concerted effort is needed to stop marijuana cultivation while farmers should be encouraged to cultivate food and economic crops as Nigeria risks devastating food, ecological and climate change crisis if the trend of marijuana cultivation is not addressed in the country.

“Stakeholders must strategize on how to increase food production and prevent criminal organizations from diverting arable farmland for marijuana cultivation. A situation where food and cash crops are paving way for marijuana plant portend danger and deserved urgent attention,” Colonel Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah [retd], former Chairman/Chief Executive of NDLEA, said.

Nigeria has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, having lost around 410,100 hectares which is approximately 3.5% per year over the period of between 2005 - 2010/2012.

In 2010, Nigeria had 109 million ha of natural forest extending over 12% of its land area. In 2020, the country lost 97.8 kilometres ha of natural forest, with global 3.8 million hectares of tropical primary rainforest destroyed in 2019 - equivalent to a football pitch every seconds, according to Global Forest Watch

Deforestation has ruined the habitat of many plants, animals, ecotourism, the economy of the communities, wildlife, increased desertification, loss of biodiversity ecosystems, and reduction in carbons sequestration capacity which in turn contributes to climate change, hydrological cycles and water runoff.

Currently almost a quarter [23 percent] of global emissions come from land use activities, such as; logging, deforestation and farming.

Protecting forests and ending damaging land use is one of the most important things the world can do to limit catastrophic global warming, while also protecting the lives and futures of the 1.6 billion people worldwide, nearly 25 percent of the world’s population, who rely on forests for their livelihoods.

"It is vital for governments of countries to immediately put an end to the looting of its forests and engage in the renovation of its forest sector, transforming it into an effectively regulated branch of its economy, respectful of the environment and its citizens." - Environmental Investigation Agency [EIA]