Marijuana farms are burning in California wildfires

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Deadly wildfires in Northern California are burning up marijuana farms in the so-called Emerald Triangle.

Blazes have destroyed a number of farms in Mendocino County right before legal recreational sales begin in California.
Cannabis business owners who lose their crops have little reprieve.

“Nobody right now has insurance,” said Nikki Lastreto, secretary of the Mendocino Cannabis Industry Association. “They might have insurance on their house, but not on their crop.”

Cannabis cultivators cannot insure their businesses because federal law prohibits marijuana, which means that financial institutions can’t go near it.

Derek Peterson, CEO of Terra Tech, which grows and sells marijuana in California, estimates that farmers typically invest upward of $5 million in their facilities and as much as $3 million on growing the crop itself.

“If their facilities burn down, a lot of these people won’t be able to get any economic relief for them from an insurance claim,” Peterson said. “There’s no mechanism for recovery to repay them for their loss. It’s a tremendous risk for these people.”

Josh Drayton, spokesman for the California Cannabis Industry Association, said it’s too early to tell just how many of the state’s estimated 10,000 to 15,000 marijuana farms have burned down.

He expects “the devastation is going to be larger than anybody would hope it to be.”

Lastreto, co-founder of the cultivator Swami Select, said she knows several people who lost their farms already. Those who haven’t lost everything are harvesting early so the crops don’t get burned down or tainted from smoke.

“A lot of plants have been lost in the fire, especially in Sonoma County,” she said. “In southern Mendocino County, there are farms burning right now.”



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