The California wild fires have left a world of devastation in their wake. With so many lives and homes lost, the damage is irreparable. Almost 200,000 acres of land has been affected in Northern California, even clearing out the vineyards in Napa and Sonoma counties. For the marijuana industry and those who have invested their life’s work and money into it, the fires have wreaked havoc on their crops. With only a few months left before California launches its legal recreational marijuana industry, the wild fires have wiped out acres of land in Sonoma County and in Mendocino County which are at the center of California’s marijuana industry. Mendocino is one of 3 counties in Northern California that makes up the Emerald Triangle, a region where a lot of the country’s marijuana is grown.
A Lack of Insurance
According to CNN, Derek Peterson, CEO of Terra Tech, a company that grows and sells marijuana in California, said that many marijuana farmers invest approximately $5 million just to set up the cultivation facility and then up to $3 million just to grow the plant. Due to the fact that marijuana remains illegal on a federal level, there is no legal banking or insurance offered to those in the industry and cash is the only legal way to operate. This means that, in the event of a fire, there is no insurance or means for recovery offered to the farmers that have invested in cultivation. The repercussions are devastating and, for many, may be too high to recover from.
“If their facilities burn down, a lot of these people won’t be able to get any economic relief for them from an insurance claim,” says Peterson of the cannabis farmers affected by the fires, many of which were owned by his friends. “There’s no mechanism for recovery to repay them for their loss. It’s a tremendous risk for these people.”
Crop Damage Outside of the Direct Blaze
The 22 blazing fires that continue to burn throughout the state have already killed 23 people while hundreds remain unaccounted for. With acres of cannabis already burned there is still an issue of damage done to the crops that were not so directly affected. Smoke damage may have destroyed more plants, destroying quality, flavor and possibly safety. Inspections will need to be done to ensure that the damage caused to crops didn’t lead to any chemical contamination. On top of this, soot and ash may have also damaged the quality and flavor of many crops so that they become difficult to sell.
Farms Still in Operation
There are many farms still functional across the state despite the devastation. According to Peterson, there are enough scattered cultivation facilities across the state at this time that stores should be unaffected and well stocked at the time that recreational marijuana is set to launch in January 2018. The state is already considered a hub for cannabis as it was the first place in the country to offer legal medical cannabis in 1996. As of January 2018, adults over the age of 21 will be able to possess up to an ounce of cannabis for personal use.