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Crosscurrents logo 2021

Google Earth helps researchers map environmental impact of cannabis

Courtesy of Van Butsic
A Google Earth image of an opening in a forest in Humboldt County, and the growth of a cannabis farm inside the opening


In Humboldt County, a team of researchers have been using satellite images to study cannabis grow sites for three years.

The project mapped nearly three million cannabis plants and analyzed how the location of grow sites impact the local ecosystem.


They’ve found that despite the relatively small size of most cannabis farms, their environmental impact is comparable to that of timber production.


KALW’s Hana Baba spoke with one of the project’s researchers, UC Berkeley professor Van Butsic, to learn more.



"We were surprised by the location of the grows, the fact that most of the grows are in areas that are really bad for agriculture ... They're good places to hide."

Click the audio player above to listen to the full interview.