Legal Pot Farms, Many Uninsured, Burn in California Wildfires

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SACRAMENTO -- The state's marijuana history has taken a hit from the several wildfires burning across much of Northern California.

Similar to wine grapes, marijuana plants thrive in Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties.

Many growers have invested a lot of money in permits and harvesting. In many jurisdictions, a marijuana growing permit can cost thousands of dollars.

"They've been spending a lot of money getting ready for permits, they haven't been able to get loans, farmers operate harvest to harvest, so we're right at the end of the harvest season they've got a whole year's worth of work and investment in their crop," California Growers Association Executive Director Hezekiah Allen said.

In a week, the fires have burned a combined 100,000 acres.

"Within our network we've got about 30 plus, 35 or so reports of significant damages," Allen said.

Most of the those farmers, Allen says, will no be reimbursed.

"Cannabis growers can't get crop insurance," Allen said. "So this is a largely uninsured crop and these farmers are really leveraged, leveraged pretty far."

Marijuana farmers also can't use bank accounts like other businesses, because cannabis is still illegal on a federal level and financial institutions have restrictions. That means many pot farms must deal in cash only.

"And in at least one of those (damage reports), there was a savings that was kept in cash on the farm that was lost in the fire as well," Allen said.

Allen says many drying sheds and warehouses also burned, but says it's still too early to tell if the destruction will force the cost of medical and recreational pot to rise. It could, he says, affect the quality of the product.

"Folks should definitely expect to see some products that have some evidence," Allen said. "You know maybe they smell a little bit like smoke."