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California Wildfires Claim Several Cannabis Farms Threatening Grower Financial Losses

The series of wildfires ravaging Northern California have inflicted major damage on several marijuana farms, with possibly more outdoor grow operations threatened in the region.

“There are a ton of farms that are located in the fire’s path. No one’s out of the woods yet. This is just starting,” said Keala Peterson, whose small, family-run cannabis operation, Sweet Creek Farms in Sonoma County, was damaged by the fires.

Peterson noted that many of the largest fire complexes were either not contained at all or only slightly contained by firefighters, a situation that exposes cannabis farmers to significant financial losses because the outdoor crops aren’t necessarily insured.

Peterson said Sweet Creek Farms lost about four-fifths of its marijuana crop to the fire on Wednesday but noted that firefighters were able to save part of her family compound.

“It looks like a wasteland,” she said. “Pretty much, it’s a total loss.”
Peterson said her cannabis crop isn’t insured, and she estimated her family will likely absorb about $150,000 in losses, perhaps more, if they aren’t able to salvage the unburned marijuana that has yet to fully flower.

“We’re guardedly optimistic that those (unburned marijuana plants) could come to term, but with smoke damage, if the bud has set enough, it’ll just be smoky marijuana, and nobody wants to smoke that,” Peterson said.

Still, she’s not too worried about the future of Sweet Creek because her family has a diversified income and doesn’t rely solely on cannabis.

The fires, many caused by lightning and sometimes pushed by strong winds, have burned hundreds of thousands of acres as they chewed through brushland, rural areas, canyon country and dense forest surrounding San Francisco. Fires also burned in the Sierra Nevada and Southern California wild lands.

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