California Wildfires Threaten Nearly All of State’s Cannabis Crops

Cannabis crops are disproportionately impacted by wildfires in California in comparison with different main crops within the state, in response to a examine by the University of California, Berkeley.

Wildfires have ravaged California, with lots of the lively fires burning within the northern a part of the state, in response to stories from Cal Fire. Cannabis farmers typically find in northern California due to rules that limit rising in low-wildfire-risk areas such because the Central Valley.

More than 94 p.c of authorized hashish is projected to develop in scorching spots in California by the tip of the century, the examine printed in Ecosphere final week discovered, and that for a wide range of causes, hashish is “uniquely vulnerable” to wildfires.

Although hashish was legalized for leisure grownup use in California in 2016, a lot of the state’s crop continues to be farmed in rural areas due to its illicit historical past. Regulations limit hashish farmers from rising in sure counties, reminiscent of within the Central Valley space the place the specter of wildfire injury could be very low. This typically influences hashish farmers to find in rural areas extra liable to wildfires.

Cannabis Often Grown In Wildfire Risk Areas
A Cal Berkeley examine discovered that California’s hashish crops are disproportionately affected by wildfires.
Christopher Dillis, Van Butsic, Diana Moanga, Phoebe Parker-Shames, Ariani Wartenberg, Theodore E. Grantham/Ecosphere

In 9 of 11 cannabis-producing counties within the state, 75 p.c or extra of hashish farm space was positioned inside wildfire danger zones. Some counties reminiscent of Humboldt, Trinity, Mendocino and Nevada noticed one hundred pc of hashish farm space positioned in scorching spots. Other counties reminiscent of Sonoma and Yolo had lower than 25 p.c of their hashish farm areas concentrated in scorching spots.

Hit To The Economy

The Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) informed Newsweek in a press release that the financial impacts of wildfires impacting hashish crop require additional examine however may probably “significantly” influence the state’s financial system.

“Based on this report, we understand that widespread cannabis crop damage due to fire or other weather-related issues could be severe, especially to local economies that rely on cannabis tax revenue,” the assertion stated.

The examine discovered that authorized gross sales for hashish in 2019 neared $3 billion.

“Cannabis is already one of the top five grossing agricultural sectors in California, with rapid growth expected in the coming decade,” the examine stated. “In 2020, tax revenues from legal cannabis sales amounted to over $780 million. Considering cannabis’ increasing economic importance at state and county levels, crop losses from wildfire have the potential for significant impacts, particularly in rural communities with a higher direct social and economic dependence on cannabis agriculture.”

Opportunities for hashish farms to spend money on crop insurance coverage to mitigate danger are scarce as hashish is federally unlawful. Insurance premiums are also on the rise for farms positioned in high-risk-wildfire areas.

“This could disproportionately impact already marginalized small-scale cannabis farmers who may not have resources to recover from wildfire-related losses,” the examine discovered. “As evidenced by insurance premiums rising exponentially [or policies being terminated altogether] for vineyards and other agriculture in fire-prone areas, the prospect of cannabis being insured in similarly hazardous areas appears unlikely.”

Cannabis Crops Are Impacted By California Wildfires
A marijuana plant is displayed in the course of the 2016 Cannabis Business Summit & Expo on June 22, 2016 in Oakland, California. A Berkeley examine discovered that hashish crops are disproportionately impacted by wildfires.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Underestimated injury

The examine examined the variety of hashish farms instantly broken by wildfires in 2020. Although the direct influence was comparatively small at lower than 1 p.c, the authors stated {that a} a lot bigger proportion might be affected simply due to the crop’s proximity to wildfires.

Smoke publicity typically impacts different crops, reminiscent of grapes, however little evaluation has been achieved on related results to hashish crops. Study authors stated that the true influence to hashish crop was seemingly “underestimated” as a result of the examine examined solely hashish farms instantly impacted by wildfires.

“While the adverse effects of wildfire smoke on the chemical composition and quality of wine grapes [‘smoke taint’] are well documented and have been shown to cause significant economic impacts the effects of smoke on the quality of cannabis products are less well understood,” the examine stated.

Wildfire smoke may result in a necessity for extra testing protocols from the state in a sector that’s already strict.

“Given California’s stringent testing requirements for cannabis flower, the effects of wildfire smoke add further uncertainty to newly established testing protocols and there is no publicly available guidance on potential mitigation measures,” the examine stated. “The potential economic impacts to farmers due to testing failures are, at present, even more difficult to estimate given the lack of available data.”

Attention ought to be directed towards assuaging location rules to encourage hashish farming in areas much less liable to wildfires, the examine stated.

“Attention should also be given to the social, political, and regulatory barriers that are excluding cannabis from more traditional and less fire-prone agricultural areas (e.g., the Central Valley),” the examine stated. “For farms already established in high-risk areas, fire-safety programs are needed to reduce the impacts of wildfire to crops and human health. These could include traditional fire-risk reduction actions, such as vegetation management and fire breaks, but should also include measures that address the risks of wildfire smoke exposure to crops and farm workers.”

The examine additionally inspired California to pursue avenues for crop insurance coverage accessible to hashish farmers who should not eligible for federal applications.

“Collectively, these steps will help bolster the resilience of the developing regulated cannabis industry to wildfire,” the examine stated. “If successful, efforts to address wildfire vulnerability of cannabis farms could potentially serve as a model for reducing the vulnerability of other forms of rural agriculture, and their dependent communities, especially in a changing climate.”

Newsweek reached out to the University of California, Berkeley for remark.

Update 09/12/22 2:38 p.m.: This article was up to date with a hyperlink to review by the University of California, Berkeley.

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