Lab Rats

The gentleman's pot farm

On those more discreet scientific discoveries

Tom Mahony 19 July 2009

I have a job to do, and I take it seriously

When I arrive on a project site to conduct a biological study, the landowner is usually nervous, irritated, or both. I’m there because some government entity has forced them to conduct the study. So landowners hire me, but aren’t happy about it. I don’t blame them. But I have a job to do, and I take it seriously.

They’re often circumspect and cagey while showing me the property, steering me toward certain areas and away from others. I politely inform them that I need to survey the entire property for sensitive biological resources.

During the survey, I invariably stumble upon the source of their wariness, and sometimes it’s a gentleman’s pot farm. Landowners are always quick to insist it’s for authorized “medical” use only. No need to explain, I tell them, I’m not the police. I’m looking for wetlands and rare species, and Cannabis sativa, to my knowledge, is not on the endangered species list. They can grow and smoke all they want for their conveniently ambiguous “back pain.” It’s none of my business.

If I find a rare species or habitat on the property, I’m torn between the scientific excitement of discovering a sensitive biological resource and the dread of informing the landowner about it. Telling them they have wetlands is like a doctor telling a patient he has cancer.

“Sorry,” I say. “You have wetlands. Big ones.”

“Oh god,” they say. “Are they fatal?”

“Sometimes,” I say. “Sometimes they kill a project.”

“Oh god.”

I feel bad for them, I really do. But at least there’s a silver lining: they have their “medical” marijuana to dull the pain.