Past years have seen the devastating forces that are wildfires destroy crops and houses alike. This year however the US state of California has suffered its worst wildfire season on record. The cost of this destruction totals at nearly three and a half billion US dollars and the lives of nearly fifty US citizens with a similar number of injuries. In 2017 alone close to 9000 fires spread across and scorched over 1.2 million acres of Californian countryside and farmland. With cannabis fast becoming one of the larger crops grown in the state, what effect this will have on the community of cannabis growers and the state’s growing cannabis culture is still to be shown.
In a year that sees one of the most important cannabis harvests in recent record, the amount of wildfires spreading across the state has also been record breaking. The state is no stranger to wildfire and indeed its effect on Californian crops. The world renowned wine region of Napa Valley which consists of hundreds of vineyards, just recently saw flames take hold of large parts of the area. Subsequently many crops were lost. This is what the cannabis farmers of California are waiting for and worrying about. The threat is very real.
The greater cost.
As mentioned before, the state of California and the people who choose to farm there are no stranger to wildfires. Coming in seasons and caused by extreme periods of drought and intense heat, wildfires are one of the regions regular natural disasters. And just like the others that share a place on that list, there is very little that one can do to prepare. The large areas of crop that are effected every year by the wildfire season include the lucrative wine industry of Napa Valley and all who grow here have to incorporate the risk of wildfire into their business plan as the cost, as history has shown, can be great. The cost for the cannabis farmer has the potential to be greater still. Though there is many a similarity between the cannabis farming that takes place in the state of California and the state’s other mainstay produce, there are still a few big differences.
Cannabis is listed in the number one position on the California state list of top cash crops, even above grapes. Both of these top two cash harvests are at threat from wildfire. And not only the flames that will burn through and destroy crops but also the smoke from nearby fires, which has the potential to ruin the taste of and therefore decrease the value of both end products. There is the similarity. The difference or one main difference that is, is that those farmers growing for the wine industry have insurance against this ever present hazard. Those growing cannabis do not have insurance of any type. Though there is much talk surrounding crowdfunding efforts and the grouping together of local farmers, there is really little that can be done to protect against such a devastating force.
Wildfire and its seasons.
There are distinct times of year that the state of California has need to specifically fear wildfire. These are the dry times of year. With heavy rain falling early in the year the state of California would hold off its regular spate of wildfires for that little bit longer. In October however wildfires destroyed nearly a quarter of a million acres of land in Northern California. Tens of thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes, of which nearly 4000 were destroyed.
The southern California wildfire season has begun in early December with a state of emergency being called in both the counties of Ventura and Los Angeles. So far, and helped to grow by the Santa Ana winds, some fires have grown to over 110,000 acres, giving the state’s cannabis farmers much cause for concern.
Right on time.
The timing of this year’s wildfire season could not be worse. The annual harvest season for cannabis is fast approaching and there hasn’t been a more important one for decades. The ability for cannabis farmers in California to distribute and sell their product will be the easiest that it has ever been, as long as you are in possession of the right permit that is. Not to mention that the majority of the state’s marijuana is also grown in one of the areas that is most at risk from these wildfires.
This crop means everything to some of the small cannabis farms out there, this year’s harvest will be the difference in some cases between staying afloat or going under in a new market that is about to be saturated with competition. There is said to have been many an illegal grow operation that has lost their crop already in the fires that took nearly fifty lives earlier in the year.
The effect that the rest of the fires that are yet to come will have on an industry that is looking at its largest legal marketplace to date will be devastating to some, however others may benefit from this loss. There is already a new niche in the market that is being exploited by selling smoke damaged cannabis under names like ‘Beef Jerky’ so who knows how this young industry will take the strain.
Whatever happens, it looks like the Californian cannabis farmer is not far off having one of their better years by far.