Wildfires Could Destroy Multi-Million Dollar Marijuana Crops In California's 'Emerald Triangle'

California's Emerald Triangle — one of the most famous cannabis-growing regions in North America — is in danger of going up in smoke as wildfires rage across the state's northern counties.  California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency yesterday as over a dozen fires blazed out of control, killing at least 11 people and ravaging Napa, Mendocino and other regions that are cornerstones for the state's wine and cannabis industries.

“We’re expecting some pretty significant property damage,” Hezekiah Allen, Executive Director of the Cannabis Growers Association, told The San Francisco Chronicle yesterday. “As damage numbers emerge, it’s going to be pretty stunning on all fronts, and certainly our membership has been directly impacted.”

In impacted counties like Sonoma, each acre of marijuana is valued at approximately $1.7 million. So the industry is looking at suffering substantial losses this fall.

While many cultivators are evacuating their grow sites, some are hastily harvesting plants to salvage their hard work. There's no telling how much of the state's crops will be affected by the wildfires, but even sections that are untouched by the blaze will likely be tainted by the "campfire smell" that clings to buds after prolonged exposure to smoke.

"I can tell you from personal experience, wildfire definitely will make your cannabis have a smokey flavor to it, just like wine,” Kristen Nevedal —Executive Director of the International Cannabis Farmers Association — told GreenState recently. She added that some people will try selling that stock by rebranding it with names matching its adulterated flavor profile. "Sometimes those buds make their way onto the black market, where they are sold on the cheap with names like 'beef jerky' and 'hickory kush.' It’s also possible that tainted plants will be sold as distillates—or even BBQ-flavored edibles—instead of flowers."

But those sales won't shore up losses created by the wildfires, which could have a lasting effect on the local industry. Last year, experts projected that California's cannabis industry could be worth nearly $6.5 billion by 2020, which is more than the GDP of many countries. However, the fires have undoubtedly taken a bit bite out of those projections. And future blazes will create even more uncertainty about the industry's future in California.

"I don’t think the fires are going to stop,” Humboldt County farmer Kevin Jodrey told Greenstate. “It’s our new reality.”

h/t Quartz

banner: US Fish And Wildlife Service (Flickr)

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