Sheriff: Highly toxic pesticide found at majority of illegal marijuana grows

Evidence of the use of carbofuran, an extremely dangerous insecticide, was found at the majority of illegal grow sites that were raided in Siskiyou County, California. (Photo: Sheriff Jon Lopey)

Police say drug raids throughout Siskiyou County revealed that illegal marijuana operations commonly use a dangerous chemical on their plants.

The substance is an insecticide called carbofuran. It's highly toxic, possibly deadly, and it could be closer than you think.

The county's sheriff says illegal marijuana grows are an epidemic in Siskiyou County. This year, the sheriff's office conducted 188 search warrant operations for illegal growing, seizing over $400 million worth of the drug.

"Almost 100 percent of Sheriff Lopey's raids have discovered empty containers of carbonfuran on site," said James Smith, the Siskiyou County Agriculture Commissioner.

Smith says the sheriff contacted him after finding empty containers of the substance at illegal grow operations.

He says the consumption of the product can cause a long list of side effects, including vomiting, breathing difficulty, blurred vision, and respiratory system failure.

"It's systemic, which means it travels throughout the plant, gets into all the plant tissues, and whoever consumes that product can be exposed to that pesticide in that plant," said Smith.

Carbofuran is banned in California, but Siskiyou County Sheriff Lopey says when it comes to illegal grows, many growers either don't know-- or don't care-- how dangerous the chemical is.

"A lot of the workers don't really realize the hazard that they're dealing with-- how dangerous that these substances are," said Lopey. "Because the purveyors of illegal marijuana are not really too concerned about their employees."

Use of the chemical could also have a serious impact on environmental health. During their raids, the sheriff's department found several dead animals on marijuana grow sites. Lopey says it's likely due to carbofuran poisoning.

"We found a dead fox, and a couple dead birds," said Lopey. "Carbofuran-- less than a teaspoon will kill a bear. This buildup over the years is creating just a major health and public safety hazard."

Lopey says carbofuran is often in the form of a pink colored powder.

He urges anyone who thinks they may have come across the substance in the future to leave the area immediately and contact the sheriff's office.

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