The 2017 October fires swept by hurricane force winds through Northern California’s emerald triangle, burning everything in their path. Forty-two died, 14,000 homes burned to the ground or were damaged, and what remains is a charred landscape where everyone is looking for a solution.
The uninsured, especially, continue to grapple for solutions. Among the uninsured losses include 30 marijuana farms and 3 marijuana manufacturers in Sonoma County alone. Mendocino County, home to up to 10,000 marijuana farms, also faces a bleak recovery. Like other Northern California growers, Mendocino growers could not insure their crops, they can’t get loans to rebuild, and they won’t qualify for FEMA relief funds. Even a crowdfunding effort to offer cannabis growers relief was shut down because federal law “prohibit[s] us from processing payments related to marijuana.”
Marijuana growers lucky enough to have escaped the firestorm must still contend with lost crop value due to smoke damage, toxic soot, and ash. Although smoke-inundated crops can be converted to products like tinctures, edibles, and cannabinoid oils, the net earnings will be far below what growers could have fetched from healthy, properly-harvested buds. Processing concentrated cannabis oil can distill out the smoke flavor and any other contaminants and produce a golden-colored oil comprising over 90% pure THC. But once a lot of that hits the market, the price will drop.
Looking to Greenhouses
As growers try to recover, some will follow the greenhouse solution favored by many of Oregon’s outdoor cannabis growers. Greenhouse tents mitigate the risks western growers increasingly must face: long periods of smoke and ash as well as pests and disease. Oregon growers protect their crops from the elements while maximizing the natural benefits and low start-up and operations costs of the outdoors. And, while greenhouse tents are no defense against a firestorm, they can help shield crops from toxic ash and soot, especially when augmented with gravel barriers and fire breaks.
California’s cannabis cultivation is largely outdoors and in mountainous and higher-fire risk areas. The average California canopy size covers 8,000 square feet and contains approximately 73 plants, and an acre of California cannabis averages $1.7 million in value. Adding indoor growing to mitigate possible ash and soot in these areas should be carefully considered, and all indoor operations must be carefully monitored and controlled with fire-retardant products.
Fire-retardant poly used for greenhouses in high-fire areas or for grow rooms and separation panels can help keep indoor grows safe from accidental ignition. Fire-retardant poly can help stop the spread of fire. Look for products that are certified by credible, third-party organizations like the National Fire Protection Association or ASTM International.
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