Saturday, October 1, 2022

What Has California’s Epic Wildfire Season Done To Marijuana?

Wildfires torched the western states this summer, damaging property, homes and farms throughout the region. In Northern California alone, the National Interagency Fire Center estimates that 411,742 acres were destroyed or damaged by 3,692 fires.

The state’s cannabis farmers were not spared in the devastation. According to GreenState,  this year’s outdoor harvest will be tainted by smoke and ash from the fires.

Although there have been worse summers in the past decade — 2012 and 2015 were more severe — this year’s crop will have a different flavor.

As Kerry Collins reported in GreenState:

America’s cannabis consumers need to be on the lookout for cheap, campfire-smelling bud this harvest season, after another record year of wildfires likely tainted untold thousands of pounds of pot with smoke and ash.

“Campfire pot”, “beef jerky”, and “hickory kush” are some of the nicknames farmers living in wildfire country give to smoke-tainted buds. Those buds are being harvested this month in the wildfire-ravaged Western U.S. and are often shipped east to unregulated black markets in New York, Atlanta and Chicago.

One longtime grower of a medium-sized operation in Mendocino County, part of California’s famed Emerald Triangle, said he expects he will have to significantly drop his prices this year. “It’s been a real struggle,” said the farmer, who wishes to remain anonymous because he ships the bulk of his product illegally to the East Coast.

“Prices have already tumbled in the past three years. None of use up here can really afford a big drop in prices,” he added.

He also said labor costs were higher this year because more of his laborers got sick from the smoke.

California is not the only state that has taken a hit from the wildfires. Collings reports:

Oregon’s epicenter of outdoor cannabis production in Jackson and Josephine Counties has felt the smoldering impacts of the Miller Complex, a slow-moving wildfire that’s burned over 37,000 acres.

Farmers say smoke’s impacts on pot crops are influenced by wind direction, rain, how old the plants are and how much they were exposed to smoke and/or ash. “I think it’s really hit or miss,” said Kristin Nevedal, executive director of the International Cannabis Farmers Association.

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