Speed Reads

up in smoke

Northern California wildfires destroying marijuana farms

Thousands of buildings and businesses have burned down in Northern California since wildfires started to sweep through the region Sunday night, and several marijuana farms in the so-called Emerald Triangle have gone up in smoke.

It's a heavy hit for owners, who don't have insurance on their crops because of federal laws against marijuana. Derek Peterson, CEO of Terra Tech, told CNN Money farmers on average invest $5 million in their facilities and up to $3 million on growing the crop, and "if their facilities burn down, a lot of these people won't be able to get any economic relief for them from an insurance claim. There's no mechanism for recovery to repay them for their loss. It's a tremendous risk for these people."

Medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996, and in 2016, sales totaled $2.8 billion. Californians voted to approve recreational marijuana last year, and the retail market will open in January 2018. Growers whose crops haven't been burned down are frantically harvesting early, to save the crops should the flames reach their farms and to keep the cannabis from being tainted by the smoke. There are an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 marijuana farms in California, and it's unclear how many have burned down. "Here comes this fire at the worst possible time for them," Peterson said. "I have a lot of friends who are really troubled right now."