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U.S. Government Funded Paraquat Spraying of Mexican Marijuana


The U.S. Government was funding the spraying of the herbicide paraquat on marijuana crops in Mexico. Paraquat is a weed killer, and if anyone inhaled marijuana after it had been sprayed with the substance, it is believed that it would result in permanent lung damage. Determination: Real

Back in the 1970's there was a progressive rock and roll radio station in Los Angeles, with the call sign of KMET. News reporter Patrick Kelley broke the story to his listeners and it became the talking point at that radio station for weeks. Late night jock, Jim Ladd, got wind of the news story and told his listeners at "The Mighty Met" that this was something that should not be ignored. Ladd then read the telephone number of the White House main switchboard and told his listeners to call the number to  complain about the paraquat spraying.  Kelley co-wrote a book with his wife, Melody Rogers, called, "And There Will Always be Termites," where he documented the KMET listener response. Kelley wrote that so many KMET listeners called the White House that it "resulted in the White House switchboard closing down."

In the days to come, Kelley and the rest of the KMET staff organized a petition for listeners to sign and talked about it over the airwaves. The air staff beat the tribal drum until they made sure everyone got the news. During the campaign Kelley had changed his on air name to "Paraquat Kelley," a moniker which he uses to this day. 

After thousands of signatures were collected members of the KMET staff flew to Washington to present the petition to Congress. In 1978 Congress banned the U.S. involvement in paraquat spraying operations, but that was short lived. In 1981 Congress lifted the ban after they heard new evidence that paraquat "was not harmful." According to a January 5, 1983, article by the Associated Press the Center for Disease Control (CDC) was unable to confirm a single case of lung damage as a result of inhaling paraquat tainted marijuana.  

A few years later the government began spraying illegally grown crops on the U.S. side of the border. On a July 14, 1988, the New York Times reported spraying of marijuana crops in the U.S. with "paraquat and two others in a stepped-up campaign to eradicate domestically grown marijuana." The Times article said, "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.'" 

In defense of the program Attorney General Edwin Meese said, "'the real environmental damage is not from' the herbicides, but rather from what is being done by the illegal growers of marijuana."

At present, the information page on the CDC website still warns of smoking marijuana that has been sprayed with paraquat. It says, "If it is inhaled, paraquat could cause poisoning leading to lung damage. In the past, some marijuana in the United States has been found to contain paraquat."

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