Wildfires are pinching California’s legal cannabis market

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Wildfires are raging across California are also destroying potentially hundreds of cannabis grows. Photo by Pixabay.

Wildfires are raging across California, leaving hundreds of thousands of charred acres in their wake. In addition to burning homes and landscapes, the fires have destroyed potentially hundreds of cannabis grows. David Downs, California bureau chief for Leafly, says that damage goes beyond simply being burned.

“Crops can burn of course, but they can be tainted by wildfire smoke that makes the weed taste smoky. They call it campfire kush as a joke,” Downs says. Cannabis that has been tainted by smoke can easily fail.

California’s purity testing requirements, and is destroyed. “You're seeing advertisements for cannabis that has been contaminated by wild fire retardant. This cannabis looks red or pink, and that certainly is something you want to throw away.” 

Fires also bring drought when a farm’s water deliveries are diverted to Cal-Fire operations. Less water, combined with lower sunlight exposure and smoke invites plant pests and diseases, which lowers yield and potency. Downs says it is difficult for farmers to recoup these losses through insurance and they are left with nothing after a fire. 

“Loss from fires and smoke is now factored into the market for legal and illegal cannabis,” he tells KCRW. “Demand remains very high, and supply remains pinched for a number of reasons, and you can't simply bring Oregon's legal surplus over the border legally into California.”

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Host:
Larry Perel

Producer:
Cerise Castle