The California fires are destroying many northern Californians’ lives, vineyards and marijuana crops. The fires are hitting the famed emerald triangle, which is home to a lot of the cannabis farms in California. Even cannabis farms not being burnt to the ground, are being smoked by the fires and doused in ash which ruins the plants anyways. These farms have no insurance due to the illegal federal status of marijuana. Is the kickoff of recreational marijuana sales and proposition 64 ruined for 2018?
The fires in northern California are turning into a catastrophe for local cannabis growers. Some farmers have seen their crops incinerated, while others have watched helplessly as ash and smoke contaminate sensitive marijuana flowers. The fires in Mendocino are south of the famed Humboldt County grows, but it’s still a part of what is known as the Emerald Triangle.
Amanda Reiman, Vice President of Community Relations at Flow Kana, a cannabis distribution company that works with small farmers in the Emerald Triangle, said she knew of farmers who had lost their farms in Redwood Valley. She pointed out that many of these farmers couldn’t get insurance because their crops are federally illegal. “Many farmers had invested a lot of money to bring their farms up to code to meet the state’s new requirements and now it’s all gone.” She is referring to the state’s decision to regulate the cannabis industry as it legalizes adult use cannabis consumption.
Kristin Nevedal, chair of the International Cannabis Farmers Association, noted that some farmers are also facing possible contamination of water sources.
Not that there is ever a good time for a fire, but the timing is especially bad for cannabis farmers. It is at the beginning of harvest season and many farmers had only just begun cutting their plants. Nevedal said that a lot of farmers wait until after the Harvest moon, which is the closest full moon to the fall equinox. That was just last Thursday, and the fires began on Sunday.
“It’s apocalypse now for two of Northern California’s legendary crops: wine and weed,” said Sara Browne cannabis market researcher and founder of Radar MRX, a consumer insights center for cannabis. “In Sonoma County alone, there are an estimated 3,000 to 9,000 cannabis gardens linked to hundreds of millions in county revenue.” Browne also noted that the smoke taints the taste and smell of a crop, much like wine will taste smokey if exposed to fire smoke.
While some may be joking about calling these crops with silly smoke nicknames, it is no laughing matter to these farmers. Woodland smoke contains compounds like carbonyls, phenols and organic acids that can be absorbed through the leaves. “Smokey crops are more susceptible to diseases such as mold, mildew, and fungus,” said Browne.
One possible solution is to sell the smoke-exposed product to be used as a concentrate for cannabis oils or vape pens. The process of extraction can clean some of the impurities away, however, marijuana that is sold for concentrates generally commands a lower price than specialized flower.