Sep 24, 2020
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Why No Cash Crop Is More Vulnerable To California Wildfires Than Cannabis

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Until a few days ago 2020 was unquestionably the finest year in a long time for cannabis growers in the Emerald Triangle the remote counties in far northern California where the economy runs on weed. After years of crashing prices the market for sun-grown cannabis was roaring back. Small farmers were earning profits again


Onerous regulations favoring big operators and steep licensing fees had driven many small cultivators into bankruptcy but for those who managed to adhere it out 2020 sounded like the beginning of the reward. Legalization would truly work! Then the lightning hit and the fires started and 2020 came for the outdoor weed farmers


A view of the crop of Swami Select a cannabis cultivator in California s Mendocino County. [+] FACEBOOK/SWAMI SELECT Per multiple sources hundreds of licensed cannabis growers in Humboldt and Mendocino counties have had to evacuate their farms during the last several days. Damage estimates won t be available for a few days more but key growing regions in southern Humboldt and in the Bell Springs area in Mendocino are blanketed in smoke or threatened by flames and in the crucial weeks earlier than the fall harvest


This is the heartland of the Emerald Triangle said Kristin Nevedal the administrative director of the International Cannabis Farmers Association who lives in southern Humboldt County. PROMOTED UNICEF USA BRANDVOICE | Paid Program
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Log In or Sign Up to View Nevedal woke to a similar orange sky Wednesday seen in San Francisco several hours to the south and was under an evacuation watch as many other farmers to her east and south were forced to flee


But even an eye spells trouble. Wildfires present a different danger to cannabis widely touted as California s most lucrative cannabis crop. Put simply there’s no other crop in the state quite so vulnerable to fires—and no industry with less help available to it after any such disaster. This is potentially a widespread crop loss situation Nevedal said


Cannabis is uniquely sensitive to wildfires because this is grown in wildfire zones. This isn’t a foolish or antiquated decision. It s good agriculture and good business. Cannabis simply does well in mountainous areas with hot days and cool nights. While this is true you can grow weed almost anywhere including indoors the mountainous and remote areas of northern California—initially chosen because this is remote and far faraway from law enforcement—have proven particularly suited for growing weed


These areas have also proven to be effective at growing exceptionally good cannabis with flavor and cannabinoid profiles that simply can t quite be replicated indoors or in greenhouses in Monterey or Santa Barbara counties. Good weed grows well in wildfire zones. That s just how it is. HUMBOLDT COUNTY CA MAY 5: Sunshine Johnston 43 grows cannabis with her husband Eric 41 on a


[+] LOS ANGELES TIMES VIA GETTY IMAGES Other than wine grapes California s other main agricultural crops are generally grown far faraway from where forest fires strike most often—in the state s Central and Salinas valleys in vast fields. HUMBOLDT COUNTY CA – MARCH 6: The Eel River snakes past Humboldt Redwoods State Park in Humboldt


[+] THE WASHINGTON POST VIA GETTY IMAGES While smoke and ash from wildfires can damage wine grapes and make the vintage unsavory wildfire smoke is a mortal threat to cannabis an aromatic flower that s consumed by smoking. Whether outdoor cannabis plants are spared death from flames smoke and ash from miles away—such as the immense pall blanketing California blotting out the sun and rendering the daytime sun an eerie dim orange haze—can taint a crop wrecking its aroma and flavor and rendering it worthless without chance of recovery


You can wash off fruit you eat; you can t clean smoke and ash from a sticky flower you smoke. Wildfires struck legal cannabis farmers hard in 2017 when fire hit the Redwood Valley in Mendocino County. To date the Hopkins Fire in Humboldt appears to have directly affected fewer farms but this one has the capability to do a little damage said Nicholas Smilgys who operates a distribution company in Mendocino


Obviously a number of traditional farmers would be hurt by this. Chris Anderson is the founder and CEO of Redwood Roots a certified cannabis distribution company located near Garberville in southern Humboldt where he brings the harvests of about 200 farms to markets in urban areas far to the south


With four vans and 3 trucks and trailers he and his company spent all day Wednesday evacuating people and product from the fire zone to safer areas to the west and north. Up to one-third of all the licensed cannabis production in all of California is in Humboldt County Anderson pointed out


I know that the smoke damage and the ash damage would be very significant he said via phone on Wednesday evening. Whether people have had to evacuate or not their crops would be affected. It s going to be significantly difficult for cannabis farmers. The fires highlight the unequal treatment offered legal cannabis cultivators by the banking and insurance industries


Marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. So risk-averse banks don t offer loans or even accounts. Insurers that could underwrite a farmer s crop also stay away. Relief if it does home will probably have to come from the cash-strapped state of California where the state budget has been wrecked by the COVID-19 pandemic


For the farmers who managed to prevent destruction by both fire and smoke 2021 might be even better than 2020. After all they ll have less competition to deal with. I foresee an outstanding year for farmers that make it through these fires Anderson said. But various farmers products would be tainted if not ruined


My heart goes out to these people. And there are still two months left in peak fire season

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