Growth of legal pot farms drives smog worries

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Science  25 Jan 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6425, pp. 329
DOI: 10.1126/science.363.6425.329

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Air pollution researchers are going to pot. The expansion of legal pot farms in the 10 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., that have legalized recreational marijuana has researchers and regulators concerned about their impacts on air quality and worker health. Cannabis plants are rich sources of volatile organic compounds that can contribute to smog. One recent study suggested the more than 600 indoor pot farms located within Denver could be worsening the city's air pollution, which already violates federal standards. Next month, in a bid to better understand that issue, Colorado officials will launch one of the largest and most sophisticated studies to date of emissions from pot farms. Such data have been scarce, largely because the federal government still considers cannabis an illegal industry. That has made it difficult for academic researchers to obtain funding or study permits from major U.S. research agencies. So scientists interested in studying pot, one researcher says, "are stuck in a position where we have to cobble this together on our own."

  • * Jason Plautz is a journalist in Denver.

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