California Wildfires Destroy Cannabis Farms

As the wildfires in Northern California continue to blaze, many large-scale cannabis farms are being destroyed. The counties of Sonoma and Mendocino are home to some of the largest scale cannabis farms in California, all of which were in the midst of their annual outdoor harvest season (often referred to as “croptober”). There is an expected $1 billion loss of product, devastating to the state’s $21 billion cannabis economy. Up to one-third of the region’s outdoor crops could be destroyed or damaged. This will prove to be a major setback for the industry in this region, as the fire hasn’t only taken mature crops — it also has destroyed the crops of seed banks and farms that produce clones, or vegetative cuttings for propagation. Further north than Mendocino is Redwood Valley, which is home to many small cannabis cultivators and businesses. The people affected will have to return to ground zero, without the backing of investors to rebuild like larger cannabis enterprises.

Due to its federally illegal status, cannabis farmers are not eligible for most crop or fire insurance, and cannot receive federal disaster relief. Many families also had their savings stored onsite in cash, since they cannot access federal banking either, with much of those savings destroyed in the flames. Many of the growers in the area had been investing significant portions of their savings in the last few years to be able to sell on the recreational market in 2018 — money spent on permits, architectural drawings and real estate now effectively gone up in smoke. Plants not physically touched by fire are still affected by the flames. They’re covered in ash and soot and made more susceptible to mold and mildew by the billowing clouds of smoke rolling through. This horrific loss will be felt deeply and for a long time in the region. The Cannabis Growers Alliance has been coordinating efforts with Mendocino County relief in the area, but it will take a long time and a lot of money to rebuild after this tragedy.