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California’s Emerald Triangle Marijuana is Burning Up, Leaves Farmers with Little Choice

The Emerald Triangle is in danger of seeing its entire marijuana crop burned up. The cannabis plants that have not burned away from the California fires are being doused in ashes and smoke. Water supplies are contaminated and farmers are scrambling to understand exactly what their alternatives are with the remaining recreational marijuana and medical marijuana crops.

California will be the top producer of cannabis among all of the recreational weed states, and the Emerald Triangle will be responsible for producing the highest quality cannabis. The contaminated crops that do not burn away are likely to be used for concentrates where a lot of the toxins can be filtered out. However, farmers will make less money on their cannabis crops if they are forced to sell all of it to wholesalers. How low do you think wholesalers will drive prices down on the smoked and contaminated marijuana plants?

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.

“Some supply will be destroyed or ruined, but from a wholesale market perspective, the delta is so small, especially this time of year, that there will be little impact on average wholesale prices across the state,” said an industry insider who tracks marijuana prices. “However, there would or will be higher prices for local dispensaries that will need to find replacement sources. Also, if any brands have long-term purchase contracts from impacted growers, then they could see disruption in getting the product to market as well as the inconsistency of end product.”

Even if it doesn’t affect overall prices, it has deeply affected a region of close-knit farmers. “Having experienced total loss of our family farm just two years ago in the Butte Fire, my heart is broken for all of those affected by the Northern California fires these past few days,” said Bloom Farms Founder & CEO Michael Ray. “We all need to take care of each other. We are mobilizing and coordinating efforts in the cannabis community to provide any relief that we can in this terribly sad time.”

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