2020 has been a heck of a year so far with many surprises showing up in headlines. The news stories have gotten so outrageous that many people shrug their shoulders and remark, “Oh well, there is always next year.” California itself has been hit particularly hard not only by the COVID-19 pandemic, but also rocked by earthquakes and set ablaze in wildfires. Many of these massive wildfires are poised to create a huge swath of damage in the marijuana industry. Couple this with an already struggling industry due to the economic fallout associated with the pandemic and we have ourselves a recipe for disaster.
What’s With All These Fires?
Every summer the western United States has to contend with wildfires. Many states are impacted and thousands of acres burn across the states of Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, and California. This is generally a normal process that has been going on since the dawn of time. However, humans are exasperating the problem considerably in two major ways. The first is that of human caused fires which are on the rise every single year. These are started by not putting out campfires properly, a spark from an ATV, or simply a gender reveal party using pyrotechnics that ultimately start a massive wildfire. The second human associated cause is that of climate change. As the planet’s climate drastically changes many areas are getting warmer and drier as a result. This year alone many places in the American west have been setting new records with extreme heat waves. The summer is already a dangerous time for wildfires and these heat waves have caused everything to dry up even more than usual. This presents the perfect conditions for a devastating wildfire and all that is needed is a simple spark. The end result is millions of dollars in damages and appalling air quality.
How Is This Affecting The Marijuana Industry?
Many have begun to wonder exactly how these fires impact the marijuana industry. The short answer is not good. These fires are doing quite a bit of damage to an industry that is already suffering due to the rigors of the COVID-19 pandemic and the failing economy. Firstly, many farms are being outright consumed by the wildfires and to make matters even worse, many of these farms are not insured. One small farmer was noted by saying, “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. She runs a small family run cannabis farm in Sonoma County called Sweet Creek Farms and it was heavily damaged by the fires. She said that about three quarters of her entire crop was destroyed, but that firefighters were able to save the remaining one quarter. However, she is not entirely optimistic that the plants that survived will mature into buds that are worth selling and could just produce smokey smelling pot. “It looks like a wasteland,” she stated. “Pretty much, it’s a total loss.”
Farmers and Growers In A Financial Crisis
On top of many growers losing their farms to fire, they were already dealing with a huge financial crisis. The economy of the US is in shambles at this time and more people are out of work than during the steep financial crisis of the late 80’s. Many businesses are firing their employees and boarding up their windows for good. This is not just small businesses that are being impacted either as many large corporations have begun to furlough thousands of employees leading to an ever growing crisis. These unfortunate events have led to damage in many industries with consumers spending less, especially in the face of an uncertain future. The cannabis industry is being hit particularly hard leaving many farmers and growers dealing with an extreme financial crisis.
A Bleak Future?
Many growers and dispensaries alike are dealing with the results of not only a pandemic, but massive wildfire that the likes of which have not been seen before. One thing’s for sure, that 2020 has been fraught with dangers and challenges that both businesses and people must overcome. The future is uncertain, and the prospects look bleak, but many growers are confident that it will be just a minor bump in the road. One grower has even remarked “I’ve been through all different kinds of hell, this is just another day.”