Legal cannabis cultivators are facing a whole new cash problem.
The scale and intensity of this year’s wildfire season in California left many folks around the country dumbstruck. Who can forget the hellish cell phone videos captured by morning commuters showing whole hillsides along the highways engulfed in flames? But those were Southern California’s wildfires, some 29 of them, which raged through properties and caused widespread evacuations in December. And the spectacular images from that inferno make it easy to forget that back in October, Northern California suffered its own extraordinary fire season. Damages from those fires are still being calculated, and one industry has been hit particularly hard: cannabis. The Northern California region is of course legendary for its cannabis agriculture. But now, California marijuana growers must navigate wildfire recovery. How they do so could impact the country’s largest cannabis market in significant, unpredictable ways.
California Marijuana Growers Must Navigate Wildfire Recovery
All told, Northern California’s October wildfires turned hundreds of thousands of acres to ash. They torched upwards of six thousand homes. 43 people (representing eight counties) lost their lives to the flames. These are losses from which it will take the state years to recover. Already, insurance claims are approaching the $10 billion mark.
However, little of that insurance money is going to provide a helping hand to cannabis farmers who lost everything in the fires.
For them, the tragedy of losing their pot farms are particularly piqued. Consider the timing. On January 1, California’s recreational market became fully legalized. In giddy anticipation for the dramatic spike in demand, growers had been gearing up all season for what promised to be a banner year.
And cannabis crops were at their peak when the fires raged through Mendocino and Sonoma counties—the twin hearts of cannabis agriculture in California. The flames torched more than thirty cannabis farms to the ground. Farms with millions of dollars of worth of product. In short, the fires could not have come at a worse time for the cannabis industry there.