Don't look at me! I didn't ask the question (this decade). One of Slate's Green Lantern readers did. And the answer, not surprisingly, is marijuana. The lantern determined each recreational drug's earthly impact based on where the raw materials come from, the ways in which they're harvested or synthesized, and the yield per square meter of land use. About half of the United States marijuana supply is grown domestically and while there are of course environmental downsides, like the fact that "at least half of the world's yearly crop of 50,000 metric tons is cultivated in subtropical Mexico, including protected areas in the mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental," marijuana is far greener than ecstasy, crystal meth and cocaine. The US DEA estimates that 2.4 million hectares of South American rainforests have been cleared by coca growers in the Andes over the last 20 years. And speaking of rain forest destruction, ecstasy is made from sassafras oil - which is derived mostly from endangered rainforest trees in Southeat Asia and Brazil. From the article:
In 2008, the U.K.-based Flora and Fauna International helped law enforcement confiscate 33 tons of [sassafras] oil distilled by criminal gangs from more than 8,000 chopped-down trees at the Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary in Cambodia. (That's enough to make 245 million Ecstasy tablets.) Meanwhile, crystal meth in the U.S. market comes from the chemicals... which are either extracted from an Asian grass or brewed in a frothy vat of molasses. China and India account for half the world's supply, according to the U.S. State Department's 2010 Narcotics Control Strategy Report, and most of the stuff that lands on our shores was likely shipped from halfway around the globe. Big-time meth chefs in the United States and Mexico purchase the raw material from domestic pill makers or middlemen, while smaller players may purchase cold medicines from pharmacy shelves. The facilities that actually cook up the street drug are also running a dirty business: In California's Central Valley, law enforcement estimates between 4 million and 7 million pounds of lab waste were poured into canals and on properties between 2000 and 2004. The people who have to clean it up wear Haz-Mat suits.
JustSaying does not support any illegal drug use be them green, white, liquid, pill or however else they reach people these days. If you are interested in reading more about this topic find the full text on Slate. Having said that, I'm heading over to carbonfund.org to clear the footprint my extracurricular college activites.