Though the recent wildfires in Northern California have spared the majority of the surrounding wine country, they have destroyed the farms of dozens of cannabis growers, and just weeks before California’s legal recreational marijuana laws take effect.
According to Cal Fire, the state’s firefighting department, the fires have burned over 245,000 acres, destroyed 7,700 building structures, and killed at least 42 people. The fires are stated to be particularly rough in Sonoma County, where at least 30 pot farms and three pot manufacturers have lost everything. According to the Sonoma County Growers Alliance, none of these businesses are insured.
You may be asking why these farms did not have insurance on their crops or operations? Unlike conventional crops, state-legal marijuana growers do not have access to federal crop insurance due to marijuana’s continued federal illegal status. Also, since the industry has limited access to conventional banking, loans that would allow farmers to quickly regain funds will be fewer and harder to come by, and in some cases, farmer’s cash revenue kept locally literally burned to the ground.
“We lost just about everything, really,” says Erich Pearson, CEO of the San Francisco Patient and Resource Center. “We have some plants still left in greenhouses, but … everything we had harvested to date went up in flames in one of the mini barns that burned to the ground.” Pearson’s nearly 400-acre farm in Glen Ellen was located just down from where the Nuns Canyon Fire began.
“All of the structures, with the exception of one home, were burned down. There were four homes on the property, three homes have burned down and all of the barns,” he said.
Cannabis farmers around Northern California have reported losses anywhere from $50,000 to an anonymously reported $1 Million.
Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, says the farmers are “thankful to be alive,” but the devastation is “heartbreaking,” also stating that the fires have happened with “uniquely bad timing.”
As for California’s marijuana supply, Person estimates there is only a five percent loss of product ahead of the start of California’s legal recreational market on January 1. Allen confirms by stating that there are more than 50,000 marijuana farms in California, with as many as 15,000 in Sonoma County. Though devastating to the affected farmers, the fires are unlikely to make much of a dent in the overall marijuana supply.
“The road to recovery is going to be long,” said Allen, who sold his cannabis ranch in 2012. “We live harvest to harvest so we’re looking at how we get people to the next harvest. Right now, our immediate goal is making sure folks have what they need to get those seeds in the ground.”
Were you affected by the devastating Northern California fires? Medicalmarijuana.com would love to hear from you.