Recent departmental study highlights effects of legalization of recreational cannabis on forest management and conservation in US national forests

May 7, 2019

Mark Klassen, 2018 graduate of the 1-year master program and Associate Professor Brandon P. Anthony of the Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy published their findings in Ecological Economics, available now online with a 50 days' free access at 

Cannabis cultivation in US national forests has been identified as a growing environmental issue. Rational choice theory often considers law enforcement efforts as pushing this illegal activity into remote areas, including public lands, through the process of crime displacement. As such, the legalization of recreational cannabis has been prescribed as a possible solution to this environmental issue. The recent liberalization of marijuana policies across numerous states introduces the opportunity to analyze these claims. 

Here, utilizing regression analyses, the authors investigate the effects of recreational cannabis legalization and a host of relevant socio-economic and law enforcement factors in Washington and Oregon on illicit marijuana cultivation in Pacific Northwest national forests. To further investigate the regression results, structured questions were sent to a key informant of the United States Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations division who responded on behalf of the institution. Results demonstrate law enforcement and economic variables as significant in determining illicit cannabis cultivation in Pacific Northwest national forests, confirming the relevance of a rational choice framework. Recreational cannabis legalization is found to significantly contribute to a reduction in illicit cultivation sites in Oregonian national forests, while remaining insignificant in Washington, likely due to policy differences that are discussed.

Klassen, Mark [MESP 17/18] & Anthony, Brandon P. 2019.
The effects of recreational cannabis legalization on forest management and conservation efforts in U.S. national forests in the Pacific Northwest. Ecological Economics 162:39-48.