Marijuana Crop Is Burning in the California Wildfires

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Marijuana Crop Is Burning in the California Wildfires By DANIEL VICTOR and MAYA SALAM. Wildfires are ravaging farms, including those that harvest cannabis in California’s Sonoma County. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Fatal fires that have consumed nearly 200,000 acres in Northern California, devastating the region’s vineyards particularly in Napa and Sonoma Counties, are also taking a toll on a fledgling industry just months before its debut: recreational marijuana.

Many of the region’s farms, including those that harvest cannabis, have been scorched, including those in Sonoma County and in Mendocino County, the center of California’s marijuana industry. Mendocino is one of three California counties that comprise Emerald Triangle, where much of the United States’ marijuana is produced.

Hezekiah Allen, the executive director of the California Growers Association, said Thursday that at least seven farms had been destroyed, and that he expected the number to “increase significantly” as people returned to their homes. Tens of thousands of cannabis growers live in Northern California.

The owners of the seven farms include small-scale growers who put their life savings into their farms over the past year, he said. None of them have insurance, he said.

“They leveraged themselves entirely,” Mr. Allen said. “It’s going to hit some families really hard.”

Since marijuana is still considered an illegal drug by the federal government, the industry works entirely in cash, said Josh Drayton, a spokesman for the California Cannabis Industry Association. That makes reliable insurance difficult to acquire and banking impossible to use.

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