At least seven marijuana farms have been destroyed in the fatal Northern California wildfires. The crop damage comes just three months before California was set to begin state licensure for recreational sales following the passing of Prop 64 last year. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times Thursday, California Growers Association executive director Hezekiah Allen said he expects the number of destroyed crops to rise.
"The October 2017 firestorm is having an extremely severe impact on our communities," Allen told the Times. "It is the worst year on record, and the worst year I can remember, in terms of farms lost. We have been able to confirm seven farms lost, but we expect the number to be much higher as more information comes in."
Growers, Allen added, don't qualify for wildfire relief funds or insurance. The fires in Mendocino County, Napa County, and Sonoma County have also resulted in many growers losing their homes. As for the total crop losses, Allen estimates "at least" tens of millions of dollars have been lost.
Recently, some farmers in the state have started switching from wine vineyards to marijuana fields following the recreation legalization last year. The reason? Greater profits. The Sacramento Bee reports that a Napa County acre of grapes brings in an estimated $356,000. An acre of Northern California cannabis, however, could potentially earn a farmer $1.1 million.
California has been racing to clear up regulatory issues ahead of a January 2018 deadline. Back in 1996, the state made history by becoming the first to legalize medical marijuana. That progressive move, however, did not result in California leading the way in the fight for statewide recreation sales. Colorado and Washington became the first recreational states in 2012 and have since reaped the financial benefits. By 2019, total annual marijuana-related revenue in the U.S. is projected to hit $11 billion.
As of Friday morning, more than a dozen fires across Northern California had burned hundreds of thousands of acres. At least 31 deaths have been confirmed. "Through all of our fires, we are starting to make progress," Barry Biermann, Napa County Fire Department Chief, told reporters Friday.
Winds overnight Friday are a worry for responders, who were benefiting from calmer winds that morning and hoping for a continued increase in containment.