Thousands of northern California cannabis farmers have had much to be excited about this year. California has become the latest state to legalize recreational cannabis use for adults over the age of twenty-one and many growers are preparing to enter a new highly competitive recreational growing industry. New cannabis laws and regulations are being passed and permit applications will soon be accepted. This will allow growers to be legally produce marijuana for recreational purposes. However, current dry conditions which are causing raging wildfires are threatening California marijuana farms.
Northern California Wildfires Burn Out Of Control
During the past two weeks, many marijuana farmers, workers, and neighbors have had their lives shattered by multiple wildfires. The devastating fires have dramatically ravaged many parts of northern California. More than 20,000 people have been evacuated and 17 people have lost their lives. Over 110,000 acres of land have been scorched by fires that are being fueled by dry heat and near hurricane force winds. The hardest hit areas include the Emerald triangle of Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties, as well as nearby Sonoma county.
Firefighters are struggling to contain these wildfires. With a hot and dry forecast ahead, many more properties and lives are at risk. Firefighters and other first responders have worked for days attempting to save precious land. Coincidentally, the counties hit hardest by the destructive flames are home to most of California’s marijuana farms.
Thousands of Marijuana Farms Are Being Threatened
Cannabis growers in the emerald triangle are fearful that the farms they have dedicated their lives and careers to could be destroyed. One staffer from a cannabis farm in Sonoma Valley said that their farm “had already experienced some pretty substantial damage.”
Hezekiah Allen, Executive Director of the California Growers Association, which was formed in 2015 to advocate for cannabis farmers in California said, “we’re expecting some pretty significant property damage, as damage numbers emerge, it’s going to be pretty stunning on all fronts, and certainly our membership has been directly impacted.”
While the fires are a concern for most Californians, most marijuana farms can expect to face critical threats to their business. Due to a fear of looters trimming and stealing cannabis that is near fully grown, some farmers have elected to stay at their farms and guard their crops.
How Those Who Lose Marijuana Farms Recover
While firefighters do advise against this, many growers have no other choice but to protect the extremely delicate marijuana plants that are worth an estimated $1.7 million dollars per acre. It is estimated that the marijuana industry will generate hundreds of millions and maybe even billions of dollars of revenue in 2018. What’s more, as Allen states, “there’s no crop insurance, there’s no FEMA aid coming to our growers. It’s a pretty extreme situation out here.”
Allen’s point is the reason farmers around the state won’t abandon their crop. Due to the federal illegality of cannabis, no farmer can apply for private disaster relief insurance nor can they apply for federal disaster relief aid. So if their cannabis crops are lost, so is their livelihood. The possibility of restarting from scratch is highly unlikely.
Should the fires in Northern California rage on, more cannabis farms, homes, and lives will be lost. But luckily firefighters are working day and night to continue to protect the vulnerable neighborhoods that are home to families, schools, and the rapidly expanding “silicon-valley” of cannabis.
Lane is based in Southern California and is a content curator for Medical Marijuana 411. He focuses his research into finding informative stories that can help medical marijuana patients better understand their diverse medicine.