The United States Forest Service (USFS) has released data concerning an increase in positive testing for THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) among its federal workers. The rise in prevalence has been attributed to the effects of state-level marijuana legalization and a concomitant shift in public perceptions about cannabis usage. Cannabis has been federally illegal since the 1970 Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and remains illegal on the federal level.
1. The U.S. Forest Service and Pot: Is Legalization to Blame?
The U.S. Forest Service recently reported an increase in the presence of marijuana cultivation sites near National Forests across the nation. Illegal activity surrounding the illegally-grown pot has led to environmental destruction, soil erosion, wildlife damage, and numerous human health and safety risks. The implications of the proliferation of pot in these sacred landscapes are far-reaching, raising questions as to the effects of marijuana legalization.
The impact of pot legalization on the natural environment is unclear, as the source of the increase in pot in U.S. forests is complex. While it could be attributed to action within the pharmaceutical industry, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) questions whether increased demand and distribution of pot is the cause of the uptick in forest activity. Presenting alternative theories, the UCS states that the mass-growing and black market export of marijuana could be partly responsible. What’s more, the lack of regulation on growth, production, and distribution of the drug makes it difficult for the Forest Service to track and prevent the illegal activity.
- Marijuana cultivation sites near National Forests create environmental and human safety risks
- Illegal activity around the pot leads to soil erosion, wildlife damage, and other safety issues
- The cause of the pot presence is complex, and can’t be attributed solely to legalization
- Mass-growing, black market sale, and lack of regulation are all factors of the issue
2. A ‘Dramatic’ Shift in Perceptions
The last decade has seen a dramatic shift in how we perceive our reality, and what we consider possible. Our digital species has been constantly redefining and reshaping what’s accepted as normal within our society.
The growth of technology has opened a whole other level of thinking and creativity. Instant communication, access to an unprecedented scale of information, and the power of innovation have transformed our everyday lives. Here are some areas where this shift is most prominent:
- Work & Education
Individuals are no longer tied to regular 9-5 jobs. Small businesses can operate without a physical workplace thanks to software, while students can access college courses and lectures from everywhere with the help of video streaming.
- Production & Manufacturing
New tools have drastically improved the design and manufacturing process. 3D printing has allowed us to produce products quickly and cheaply, while machine learning is starting to replace certain tasks.
- Leisure & Social
Video gaming has become the biggest form of entertainment in the world. Streaming services have revolutionized the way we consume content like films, series, and music. Social networks have connected us, allowing us to communicate with people across the planet.
These advancements are rapidly changing society as we know it. We’re just beginning to grasp the implications of this revolution upon our culture, politics, and everyday realities.3. U.S. Forest Service Sees Rise in THC Tests
The U.S. Forest Service, in an effort to reduce wildfires, has seen an increase in the frequency of tests for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). As part of its Wildland Fire Prevention Program, the Forest Service has been working to decrease the number of wildfires caused by human carelessness and negligence.
With more cannabis cultivation facilities sprouting up around the country, the incidence of wildfires sparked by careless disposal of THC-containing debris and grow equipment has increased significantly. The Forest Service has responded to this trend by increasing the number of THC detections in the wild over the last year. The number of testing sites has also been increased, allowing them to detect THC in remote areas more quickly.
- The Wildland Fire Prevention Program has been working to reduce wildfires.
- The incidence of THC-supported wildfires has increased due to cannabis growing.
- The Forest Service has increased its THC detection rates.
- Testing sites have been expanded to monitor remote areas more quickly.
4. Seeking a Solution to the Conflict Between State and Federal Laws?
Understanding the conflict between state and federal laws is essential for resolving it. The nature of the conflict, however, is complex, as the US Constitution sets limits on state government powers while guaranteeing certain rights and obligations. In order to reconcile state and federal laws, all stakeholders must come together and develop a cohesive system of governance that balances:
- Federal Rights– respecting all rights and obligations granted by the US Constitution
- State Autonomy– preserving the power of state government to legislate and enforce regulation as long as it does not conflict with federal laws
- Collective Identity -maintaining a national identity guided by federal laws and regulations while recognizing state autonomy
The challenge with this is that different states and their respective laws may be in conflict with each other. To build a unified government, a process of dialogue and compromise must occur, in which representatives from states have equal representation and a common goal. This may not be easy, but with the right level of commitment, it is likely possible to bridge the gap between state and federal laws.
As marijuana continues to be legalized in more and more states, the U.S. Forest Service has noticed an increase in the number of positive THC tests for their federal workers. With the perception of marijuana already shifting dramatically over the past few years, it looks like this trend is only going to continue to grow. Oftentimes, it is important to remember that as laws change, safety standards and regulations need to adjust in order to make sure everyone is being safe and work places remain productive.