CALISTOGA, Calif. — Marijuana farmers and dispensary owners across Northern California are nervously watching as wildfires burn through some of the state’s prime cannabis growing areas and destroy valuable crops, which could drive up prices for consumers across the country.
“This is right smack in the middle of people’s harvests,” said Eli Melrod, the CEO of Solful Dispensary in Sebastopol, in northern California. “It couldn’t have been worse timing, frankly.”
A single marijuana plant can be worth up to $5,000, but pot growers can’t get crop insurance like traditional farmers or the vintners whose grapevines tend to get most of the attention here.
Wildfires are burning across parts of Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties, which are known for both wine and marijuana, particularly among high-end consumers willing to pay a premium for the name.
Complicating matters: Marijuana farms are built in remote areas with poor road access and don’t necessarily appear on firefighters’ maps of buildings to be protected. The growers often live largely off the radar, without health insurance or access to traditional job support systems such as unemployment insurance. Black market growers may be reluctant to tell friends and family members of the losses they’ve suffered.