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Marijuana Growers Face Huge Hit From North Bay Wildfires

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) -- It's expected that up to one-third of the cannabis crop in Mendocino and Sonoma counties will be destroyed or damaged by the recent wildfires.

That puts the state's 21 billion dollar cannabis economy in jeopardy.

KCBS reporter Scott Lettieri spoke to Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association.

KCBS: This could end up having real catastrophic effects for growers, yes?

ALLEN: Yeah. It's pretty shocking. Obviously, the fires as a whole -- our communities are reeling from the impact and damages. Within our membership and network of growers it's unprecedented impacts, is the only way to describe it.

KCBS: What are we talking about, financially, for these growers? Are some of these folks going to be going out of business?

ALLEN: That is a very real concern for us. The cost of this transition, preparing for licenses next year -- folks have leveraged their entire life savings and now they've lost their homes and their crops. Farmers live year-to-year -- they've gotta make it till this time next year to see any more income and they're out-of-pocket tens -- if not hundreds -- of thousands on permitting and compliance costs. It's gonna be a real tough time. I'm happy to say that our broader community is rallying, we have raised around $20,000 so far. We're pushing for more. We're gonna do everything we can to keep these farmers on their land and in their homes.

KCBS: How is it advantageous for growers to be members of the Growers Association?

ALLEN: What it means in simple terms is that they're on the path to licensure. Licenses aren't available until January 1, 2018 so everyone that we're working directly with right now has been really moving toward licenses. For the first time ever in our history as cannabis growers we have the ability to talk with our elected officials and to try to sort out problems. Right now we're trying to get folks access to water their crops. These plants have been without water for a week so even some of the crops that are still in the ground and can be valuable are suffering.

KCBS: How do you see these fires affecting the (cannabis) market in general as we approach legalization in January?

ALLEN: California produces a lot of cannabis. I've got to give it time to assess the damages but at the community level, the neighborhood level and certainly at the individual farmer level this catastrophe could be absolute if the community doesn't rally to help folks out.

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