potentially tens of millions of dollars in crop damage
California marijuana growers north of San Francisco faced mandatory evacuation orders as well as potentially tens of millions of dollars in crop damage and loss amid widespread wildfires in Wine Country and surrounding areas.
Another farm, Sonoma County Cannabis Company, also sustained major losses, according to multiple reports. “There are no words right now to describe the loss, the heart break and the trauma that our beloved home and community is going through,” the company posted to its Instagram account. “We are trying to save what we can.”
Major Santa Rosa cannabis manufacturer CannaCraft closed its 110-employee business Monday and told employees to stay home, CannaCraft spokeswoman Kial Long said. For those who could not stay home, she added, CannaCraft’s headquarters south of the Santa Rosa evacuation zone was open to them as an evacuation center.
Long said she’s received no reports from the numerous Sonoma County cultivators with whom CannaCraft works but knows that several are in the line of fire.
Regional dispensaries like Organicann reported being closed for the day, or could not be reached by phone during business hours.
Robert Jacob, the former Sebastopol mayor and former director of the Peace in Medicine dispensary in that city reported on Facebook this morning that he feared his house was gone: “Well, the fire was a block away from our house when James evacuated. 0% containment and 20,000 acres burning. I’m afraid we’re going to lose our house.”
The timing of wildfire season could not be worse for cannabis, because the delicate, fragrant flower buds bloom in the middle of fire season.
“Especially when it’s ripe — I can tell you from personal experience, wildfire definitely will make your cannabis have a smoky flavor to it; just like wine,” Kristin Nevedal, executive director of the International Cannabis Farmers Association, based in the Humboldt County town of Garberville, said in a September interview.
Fire-prone Northern California harbors the world’s largest concentration of cannabis farms in the remote forested mountainsides of Trinity, Humboldt and Mendocino counties. Further south in Sonoma County, where the Tubbs Fire is burning, many commercial medical and soon-to-be-recreational as well as personal cannabis farms also exist, along with ancillary businesses.
Allen said Sonoma County’s location makes it a magnet for cannabis commerce. An acre of cannabis is worth an estimated $1.7 million, some analysts say.
“It’s located right there between three counties where so much of our product comes from, and its proximity to the Bay Area makes it a huge marketplace, with a lot of processing and manufacturing; just a huge industrial leader in general.”
Beyond picking up the smell of the fires, smoke-exposed crops are more susceptible to disease, leading to unhealthy levels of mold, mildew and fungus.
Nevedal said farmers won’t know the extent of smoke damage until after the harvest season, which runs through October.
California is America’s No. 1 domestic producer of cannabis — growing an estimated 13 million pounds per year. Four out of 5 of those pounds of pot is shipped out of state, researchers estimate. Much of that pot is grown outdoors, and is planted in the spring and harvested in the fall.
By David Downs SF Chronicle
Photo credit Michael Short