94% of California Cannabis Cultivation at Risk from Wildfires by End of Century

The findings come from researchers at the University of California, Berkeley as they assess cannabis cultivation in the state.


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More than 94% of California’s existing cannabis cultivation area is at risk of experiencing wildfires by year 2100, according to a report published by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.

The report, “The threat of wildfire is unique to cannabis among agricultural sectors in California,” was published in the journal Ecosphere.

“Nearly all of the state's cannabis cultivation area (94.40%) was located in areas identified as projected burn pattern hot spots (new/intensifying, historical/persistent, sporadic/oscillating, or diminishing hot spots) for the prediction period 2020–2100,” the report states. “No other agricultural type exceeded 25% of cultivation area in these burn pattern categories."

Furthermore, the report states that the geography of California’s cannabis cultivation may only inflame wildfire issues for cultivators, saying the “remote, hilly, forested areas” that the state’s legacy operators have long held are more fire-prone than other areas.

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Even in more populated locations across the state, such as the Central Coast, the threat of wildfires still remains of high concern.

The report notes that the top three cannabis-producing counties on the Central Coast have a majority of their farms located in zones classified as persistent, new or intensifying wildfire hot spots. Santa Barbara County, in particular—the top cannabis-producing county in California, per the report—has more than 95% of its cannabis farms located in new or intensifying hot spot zones.

The report also notes that wildfires across California pose threats not just to farms directly impacted by fires, but also farms that are indirectly impacted by smoke exposure, infrastructure damage and more.

“Our findings highlight cannabis’ particular vulnerability to wildfire in California and may in fact underestimate wildfire risks given the potential indirect impacts of smoke to crops and farmworkers, which were not evaluated in this study,” the report states. “In light of the sector’s growing economic importance in the state, these vulnerabilities should be considered in future cannabis and rural development policies.”

Read the full report here.

 

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