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As wineries assess the damage caused by Northern California wildfires, cannabis farmers are also counting their losses. Although unlike other businesses, they have little absolution.
“We’ve lost millions of dollars of product for sure,” said Ned Fussell, CEO of CannaCraft. “And we have no insurance.”
Even with California beginning to issue licenses for commercial cannabis cultivation in January, farmers like Fussell are cannot qualify for crop insurance because growing marijuana is still against federal law.
Cannacraft- Fussell’s company, is one of the largest cannabis manufacturers in California. They grow and then process their plants into cannabis oil, which is used in over 100 different products. Out of their 20 farms, Fussell says they only have access to a handful on them, the others are still burning.
“As bad as this looks, others are a lot worse,” Fussell said Monday morning. “A lot of them are just totally incinerated.”
Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, said many smaller farmers lost not only their farms, but also their homes.
“This all comes at about the worst timing,” Allen said. “October is harvest season, and many of these farmers have poured their life savings into this business.”
On Fussell’s Santa Rosa farm, smoke is still rising from what was once a 10,00o square foot curing facility, where Cannacrafy would store and dry their crop before processing it into oil.
Fussell points to the only structure still standing, a 40,000 square foot greenhouse filled with hundreds of plants. Even with dozens of heavy duty industrial fans, they said there was still a 50/50 chance of losing this crop to smoke damage.
“We’re just concerned about what contaminants might be in the air. We’ll have to test for all those things now,” Fussell said.
Using a gas generator to pump the wells for water, Fussell hopes to preserve what little crop is still left. Although the loss is devastating, pot farmers are resilient, and they’ve already gone through so much to get this far.
“We’ve been kicked down many times before, and I’ve always found it’s really important to just kind of keep a level head through it all and just try to, like, see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Fussell said. “And I look all around us, and see so many people have lost so much more. It’s sobering.”
Cannacraft has now begun doing what it can to help other farmers affected by the wildfires. They have formed a nonprofit to collect donations for smaller farms who were completely wiped out.
“Not everyone will survive this,” he said. “These fires will have profound effect on the industry.”