Cannabis Crops Are Closer to Wildfire Perimeters Than Any Other Harvest in the Golden State
By Curtis Prince, CEO & Founder at Flux Insurance Services, LLC
Wildfires across the agricultural sectors of California have become an increasingly large threat over the last few years. However, it is the Golden State’s lucrative cannabis crops that are being impacted the most.
Research by the Department of Environmental Science Policy and Management at UC Berkeley analyzed licensed cannabis farms in 11 of California’s cannabis-producing counties. After studying CAL FIRE maps of fire hazard severity zones, historic wildfire perimeters and areas likely to face increased fire activity, the researchers found that compared to other crops grown in the state, most cannabis growing fields are located in fire hazard zones that are considered to be “high” and “very high.”
Today, 36% of CA cannabis cultivation areas (986 farms) are in high fire hazard zones, and 24% of cannabis cultivation areas (788 farms) are in very high fire hazard zones.
Today, 36% of CA cannabis cultivation areas (986 farms) are in high fire hazard zones, and 24% of cannabis cultivation areas (788 farms) are in very high fire hazard zones. Findings from the research study concluded that these specific areas of the state will continue to face a greater risk of loss due to a wildfire event.
The research study, to determine the vulnerability of legal cannabis growing operations to a wildfire event, addresses three main questions:
- Are licensed cannabis farms more vulnerable to wildfire than other forms of agriculture statewide?
- How vulnerable is licensed cannabis agriculture to wildfire under climate change, compared to other agricultural sectors?
- How does the potential wildfire threat vary among cannabis-producing counties now and in the future?
“[Our research] findings affirm that cannabis agriculture is geographically more threatened by wildfire than any other agricultural crop in California. This is an issue in almost all major cannabis-producing counties, not [just] those in Northern California.” — Christopher Dillis, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley’s Cannabis Research Center.
“[Our research] findings affirm that cannabis agriculture is geographically more threatened by wildfire than any other agricultural crop in California. This is an issue in almost all major cannabis-producing counties, not [just] those in Northern California.”
– Christopher Dillis, postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley
What Can Cannabis Growers Do?
For cannabis operations located in established high-risk areas, experts recommend proactive measures such as the implementation of a fire safety program to help reduce the impact of a wildfire event on cannabis crops and human health, including managing vegetation in the immediate area, creating fire breaks, and implementing prevention measures that reduce worker exposure to wildfire smoke.
As for mitigating loss, experts recommend the state provide licensed cannabis farmers with the option of purchasing federal crop insurance, which is widely available for almost all other types of agricultural crops.
“The legal cannabis market in California is facing substantial headwinds from both market forces and a burdensome regulatory environment. This [research] study shows that cannabis agriculture is uniquely exposed to wildfire impacts, which presents yet another challenge for licensed cultivators in the state.” — Ted Grantham, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and director of UC Berkeley’s Cannabis Research Center.
Curtis Prince is CEO & Founder at Flux Insurance Services, LLC, which is affiliated with Builders & Tradesmen's Insurance Services, Inc., an Amynta Group Company.
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At BTIS, we recognize the complex requirements of the ever-changing cannabis industry and offer coverage options that specifically meet the needs of cannabis businesses. We also offer crop coverage for cultivators with both indoor and outdoor operations, including extensive greenhouse crop coverage.
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