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California Wildfires’ Devastating Effect on Marijuana Industry

Marijuana Fires

As the wildfires in California continue to burn, the U.S. marijuana industry continues to suffer catastrophic losses. Unlike the wine industry, most marijuana cultivators do not have crop insurance because of the difficulty obtaining insurance for the federally illegal substance, so their losses are immense. The devastation comes just before California’s October harvesting season and the launch of their recreational marijuana industry in January 2018.

Ned Fussell of CannaCraft, one of the state’s largest marijuana producers, has suffered significant losses, KQED reports. Fussell owns roughly 20 marijuana farms in Northern California, but only a few have been accessible because some of the farms are located in fire zones that are still burning.

Fussell said, “We’ve lost millions of dollars of product for sure. And we have no insurance. As bad as this looks, others are a lot worse. A lot of them are just totally incinerated.”

CannaCraft grows marijuana that is turned into oils for use in more than 100 different marijuana-infused products.

Executive director of the California Growers Association, Hezekiah Allen, says that some smaller grow owners lost their homes and their crops. He said, “This all comes at about the worst timing. October is harvest season, and many of these farmers have poured their life savings into this business.”

CannaCraft lost a 10,000-sqft curing barn in Santa Rosa. It’s where the company stores its dry marijuana before it is made into oil. CannaCraft does have a little hope left, but smoke from the fires may have damaged the hundreds of plants inside their 40,000-sqft greenhouse. Fussell estimates that it’s a 50/50 chance that the crop is ruined just from smoke, even though there are industrial fans blowing to protect the plants. He said, “We’re just concerned about what contaminates might be in the air. We’ll have to test for all those things now.”

CannaCraft does still have some of its crop, and the company is using a gas-powered generator to maintain water flow to the plants. He said, “We’ve been kicked down many times before, and I’ve always found it’s really important to just kind of keep a level head through it all and just try to like see the light at the end of the tunnel. And I look all around us, and see so many people have lost so much more. It’s sobering.”

Fussell’s company is forming a nonprofit for donation collection to aid smaller farmers that have lost everything in the wildfires. He said, “Not everyone will survive this. These fires will have a profound effect on the industry.”

Photo: TonyaMosley/KQED