California marijuana farms are putting local animals on the endangered species list

The Humboldt marten, a (much cuter) cousin of the weasel, has been placed on the endangered species list thanks to marijuana croppers.

Marijuana is the only class-A drug with zero fatalities. But it's killing off a delightful forest creature in California's Humboldt County. How delightful, you may ask? Check this little guy out: 


The Humboldt marten is a distant cousin of the common weasel, and by all accounts (i.e. a non-scientific study in the Big Think office wherein I invited people to look at the above video) is "totally adorable". The thing is: they're dying in large numbers thanks to marijuana farmers in the Humboldt area. Because of this, California recently announced that it was moving the Humboldt marten to the endangered species list. 

With between 4,000-15,000 Humboldt area marijuana farms (varying from small to large and legal to not-so-legal), there's a lot of marijuana. And marijuana, you may be surprised to find out, is pretty tasty to mice and rats.

To stop this problem, marijuana farmers use a lot of rat poison to keep the rodents at bay, because rats often eat the crops and get super stoned. Which might sound hilarious (and, well, it is, because it mainly just makes them lazy), but this rodents-getting-lit issue accounts for huge losses. Consider the case earlier this year when mice in Brazil ate a half-ton of marijuana (about $5 million in street value), which one can imagine must have been like their Coachella x a million. 

Jokes and huge financial losses aside, the rat poison is finding its way into the streams and rivers and even killing off northern spotted owls, barred owls, and more. Mourad Gabriel, co-director of Integral Ecology Research Center was quoted by The Guardian on the issue, saying “It’s like they all shop at the same grocery store. And we have clear and stark evidence that the food web for the northern spotted owl is contaminated, and martens live in the same habitat." 

Why “shooting the messenger” is a real condition, explain scientists

Harvard psychologists discover why we dislike the people who deliver bad news.

Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • A new study looked at why people tend to "shoot the messenger".
  • It's a fact that people don't like those who deliver them bad news.
  • The effect stems from our inherent need to make sense of bad or unpredictable situations.
Keep reading Show less

Philosopher Alan Watts on the meaning of life

He reminds us that meaning is wherever we choose to look.

Photo: Pictorial Parade/Getty Images
Personal Growth
  • Alan Watts suggests there is no ultimate meaning of life, but that "the quality of our state of mind" defines meaning for us.
  • This is in contradiction to the notion that an inner essence is waiting to be discovered.
  • Paying attention to everyday, mundane objects can become highly significant, filling life with meaning.
Keep reading Show less

How to detect life on Mars

If life exists on Mars, there's a good chance it's related to us, say researchers.

NASA/JPL/USGS
Surprising Science

When MIT research scientist Christopher Carr visited a green sand beach in Hawaii at the age of 9, he probably didn't think that he'd use the little olivine crystals beneath his feet to one day search for extraterrestrial life.

Keep reading Show less