Florida Mulls Use Of Controversial Anti-Marijuana Fungus

A proposal by Florida’s drug czar to
unleash a marijuana-eating fungus is receiving sharp criticism from environmentalists and drug law reformers.
“Florida is not a significant marijuana producing state, and has no business being a guinea pig for a potentially dangerous and unproven fungus,” NORML Foundation Director Allen St. Pierre said. “It is frightening to think that in search of a quick fix, Florida’s drug czar is willing to risk even greater long-term ecological and social problems.”
Florida’s proposed marijuana eradication plan would enlist the use of
a new, marijuana-eating, soil-borne fungus, known as Fusarium oxysporum. Proponents of the program, spearheaded by state drug czar Jim McDonough, believe that the “mycoherbicide” will target marijuana and ignore other crops. Critics are uncertain.
“I believe that if this fungus is unleashed, … it’s going to create its own problems,” Bill Graves, a senior biologist at the University of Florida Research Center in Homestead, told The New York Times. “If it isn’t executed effectively, it’s going to target rare and endangered plants.”
Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary David Stuhs also warned of the fungus’ potential dangers. “Mutagenicity [the tendency to mutate] is by far the most disturbing factor in attempting to use a Fusarium species as a bio-herbicide,” he wrote in a letter to McDonough. “Mutation of the organism would not only threaten Florida’s natural environment, but would also put at risk our economically vital agriculture industry.”
Despite such concerns, state officials plan to begin testing the fungus at a research facility outside of Gainesville.
U.S. officials have previously used fungi to destroy coca plants in South America, but local farmers complained that it spread to banana, tangerine, and other food crops.
Federal statistics indicate that less than three percent of all marijuana seized in the U.S. is grown in Florida.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.