DF author's note: This archived article from 30 years ago highlights some of the tactics used by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the lengths gone to in the government's efforts in the war on drugs, which at the time were societally seen as acceptable and even desirable. Note: one of the chemicals mentioned in the article, glyphosate, is the main component of the now-controversial herbicide RoundUp, produced by Monsanto.
WASHINGTON, July 13— The director of the Drug Enforcement Administration said today that the Government would use the herbicide paraquat and two others in a stepped-up campaign to eradicate domestically grown marijuana.
The use of paraquat, banned from national forests in 1983 because of environmental concerns, was announced by the director, John C. Lawn, at a news conference.
A drug agency spokesman, Cornelius Dougherty, subsequently said that, in light of a 1983 ruling by Federal Judge June Green, paraquat would be sprayed for marijuana eradication on private land, not on public property.
The other two herbicides cited by Mr. Lawn, 2,4D and glyphosate, are not involved in the ruling and could be used on public lands, a spokesman said.
Jay Feldman, coordinator of the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides, said: ''The other two chemicals don't have the same restrictions, but while that may be complying with the letter of the law, it is violating the principles that protect national lands to ensure the protection of wildlife habitats and recreation areas.''
Under a consent decree resolving the 1983 suit by several environmental groups and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, the D.E.A. agreed not to spray paraquat until after the Government prepared a statement on the action's effect on the environment.
The impact statement was completed in July 1985 and found that ''there is a slight risk that heavy smokers of marijuana could be affected by paraquat-sprayed marijuana.'' The document also opened the way for use of glyphosate and 2,4-D.
Glyphosate, a weedkiller like paraquat, was first used in September 1985.
Paraquat, which is used in agriculture to clear fields before planting and after harvest, is an acid that can produce severe lung damage in humans if ingested.
The Government contends that while paraquat is dangerous in a concentrated form, once it is sprayed it becomes ''biologically inactive.''
Mr. Lawn said today that the Government must prepare another environmental impact statement when eradication is contemplated and that ''at that point, the determination is made by environmentalists, by law enforcement, which chemical will be most effective.''
Attorney General Edwin Meese 3d said ''the real environmental damage is not from'' the herbicides, but rather from what is being done by the illegal growers of marijuana.
Cover image credit: still from video "Flying a Crop Duster," YouTube