California cannabis growers are assessing the fire damages. After the shock, resignation.

The deadly wildfires that ravaged communities and wineries in Northern California also severely damaged numerous marijuana farms, just before the state is expected to fully legalize the drug, in a disaster that could have far-reaching implications for a nascent industry.

At least 34 marijuana farms suffered extensive damage as the wildfires tore across wine country and some of California’s prime marijuana-growing areas. The fires could present challenges to the scheduled Jan. 1 rollout of legal marijuana sales at the start of an industry that is expected to generate billions of dollars in revenue.

In many cases, owners have spent tens of thousands of dollars to become compliant with state law to sell the product. But because the federal government considers marijuana cultivation and sales a criminal enterprise, it remains extremely difficult, if not impossible, for most of the marijuana businesses affected by the fire to access insurance, mortgages and loans to rebuild. Even a charitable fund set up to help marijuana farmers was frozen because a payment processor will not handle cannabis transactions.

Cannabis businesses also are not eligible for any type of federal disaster relief, according to a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

california fires marijuana farms recoverySome of the marijuana plants that were destroyed in the Northern California wildfires. (Mason Trinca for The Washington Post)

“It’s the darkness right before the dawn of legal, regulated cannabis in California,” said Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, who cautioned that the full extent of the damage remains unknown. “These businesses are in a really vulnerable position, and this really came at about the worst time it could have. It means we’re on our own.”

The fires burned swaths of Mendocino County, which is part of what is known as California’s “Emerald Triangle,” the nation’s epicenter of marijuana growing. It also devastated Sonoma County, which is best known for wine but has seen an increase in cannabis farming. The fires killed at least 42 people and damaged thousands of buildings, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Some marijuana farms were completely destroyed, and many others are believed to have been heavily damaged by fire, smoke and ash. Structures used to store dried marijuana burned, as did greenhouses and irrigation lines. Many marijuana cultivators live on their farms, and some homes burned to the ground.

Erich Pearson, co-owner of SPARC, a large medical cannabis dispensary with two locations in San Francisco and others north of the city, saw his crops in Glen Ellen, California, about 50 miles north of San Francisco, engulfed by flames after awakening to the smell of smoke. The first thing he saw after getting close to the farm was a metal-roofed barn on fire. It was filled with marijuana harvested to sell on the legal market.

“We lost everything we harvested to date, and had significant damage to what’s left,” he said.

There is concern that what has been destroyed, as well as the damage from smoke, ash and lack of water for crops that did survive, could seriously impact the supply for customers when marijuana is legal for sale. The fire has compounded existing problems with the initial start of sales because of a regulatory mess: Many municipalities and the state have not released draft regulations for how businesses must comply with the new law. Businesses in some places, including San Francisco, are not likely to be able to open Jan. 1.

“Now, we might be facing a much smaller harvest than we were anticipating, which could potentially drive the price up,” said Josh Drayton, deputy director of the California Cannabis Industry Association. “It’s going to touch every different piece of the industry, and we can’t get ahead of this yet. We still don’t know how much has survived, how much has been lost.”

california fires recreational marijuana sales outlookThousands of glass dispensary containers are scattered where SPARC’s processing barn once stood in Glen Ellen, California. (Mason Trinca for The Washington Post)

Chiah Rodriques, chief executive of Mendocino Generations, a marijuana collective in Mendocino County, said that most of the 40 farms she works with were only about 25-to-50-percent harvested when the fires broke out earlier this month. About a quarter of the farms were affected by either fire or smoke, she said, and just 10 of the 40 have the local permit necessary to become compliant with the state, though all are working toward them. None of them have crop insurance, she said.

Rodriques said that the fires could lead to less usable marijuana on the market come January. The one saving grace might be to repurpose affected plants and use them for cannabis oil and other tinctures that can be sold at dispensaries. The oils are far less lucrative than the flowers, the part of the plant that is consumed – and this year was expected to be a bumper crop.

“You’re looking at the difference between $800 to $1,500 a pound to now getting $100; it’s a huge blow,” she said, especially when farmers have spent so much money trying to become compliant with laws.

“These people put everything they had into paying for this fee and this tax and this permit and this lawyer, one thing after the next, and to have this happen right when it’s finally harvest is huge,” she said.

Pearson carefully selected the seeds and genetic strains for the cannabis he planted in February on part of 400 acres he shares with 11 other farmers. He is now starting from scratch: finding new seeds and securing greenhouse space to grow the new plants. He had submitted all of his permits to become legal under the county and state’s new regulations.

“The hopes of what we could do are still the hopes of what we’re going to do,” Pearson said. “It’s just going to be a little harder to get there.”

Ashley Oldham, owner of Frost Flower Farms in Redwood Valley, California, did something very out of character: She left her cellphone at a friend’s house the day the fire reached her. A neighbor pounded on her door in the middle of the night as flames surrounded her home, saving the lives of Oldham and her 4-year-old daughter.

Oldham’s house was destroyed, but her greenhouse stayed intact, in part because she hiked through what looked like a “post-apocalyptic disaster zone” to check on her property after the fire passed. She said that emergency officials initially did not allow marijuana farmers to check on their crops, as is allowed for farmers of other agricultural products.

When she arrived at the farm, she used a neighbor’s hose to wet down a large oak tree that was ablaze, saving her greenhouse. Oldham has been okayed for a legal permit in Mendocino County, spending “a lot of money” to come fully into compliance. She estimates that she lost about 25 percent of her crop to wind damage, and much of it looks burned.

She and other cannabis farmers must have their crops extensively tested under California’s new regulations, and most people don’t know what impact smoke or burn damage will have.

“We’ve never experienced this and I don’t know what to expect,” she said. She said that she will not be able to recoup the full value of her house through insurance because she grows marijuana.

“We’re totally legal,” she said of her farm. “But we’re still being treated unfairly.”

Susan Schindler, a grower in Potter Valley, California, said she has spent at least $20,000 on consultants, attorneys and fees trying to come into compliance for legal sales in January. She evacuated her home and has been at a San Francisco hotel since the fires. Her master grower told her the plants are “very crisp.”

Half of the crop was destroyed earlier this year due to russet mites, and now she thinks much of the other half will be lost to fire. Some was harvested, and she’s hoping that it will allow her to break even.

Schindler calls marijuana a “holy plant” that she’s farmed for years, selling to medical dispensaries.

“I’m not going to give up,” she said, “but it’s going to take a lot of money out of my bank account this year.”

california marijuana growers next steps after fireAmy Goodwin removes the yellow leaves and checks for damage on the marijuana plants for SPARC on Wednesday in Glen Ellen, California. The plants require a high level of maintenance, and the fire stopped employees from working. (Mason Trinca for The Washington Post)

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Peru’s conservative leadership legalizes medical marijuana

LIMA, Peru — Peru has become the latest country in Latin America to allow the medicinal use of marijuana.

The nation’s conservative congress voted 67-5 late Thursday to approve legislation allowing the drug to be produced, imported and sold.

Lawmakers praised the move as a way to improve the lives of thousands of patients looking to better their quality of life.

The legislation has the backing of President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.

Chile and Colombia also allow medical marijuana, while Uruguay in 2013 became the first Latin America nation to allow recreational use of the drug.

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We Tried Rolling Those Viral Rose Petal Blunts

A few weeks ago, a number of readers reached out to ask if I’d seen the viral video on Twitter of a woman rolling blunts with rose petals. A sucker for a novelty weed smoking trick, I obliged the internet inquiries and watched the video.

It was mesmerizing. Twitter user @Simple_Sasha made the process look so effortless, like she had been rolling these romantic rippers from the first day she started smoking. But it couldn’t be as easy as Sasha made it look in the short clip, for we’d have been smoking these beautiful blunts from the jump. I set out to investigate.

When I walked into the flower shop to pick up some roses, I almost made a very expensive error. Though Sasha secured what appeared to be a fully intact rose for her demonstration, I couldn’t be so sure I’d nail these blunts on the first few tries. A dozen roses are expensive, to say the least — I’m just lucky we weren’t trying these out in early February.

Thankfully, the florist let me in on a little secret once I explained these petals would be utilized purely as a delivery system for weed smoke, telling me it would be much cheaper to buy a box of roughly 100 rose petals than an actual bouquet. This way, I could “practice” all day long without worrying about a little thorn in my side called “overdraft fees” — or actual thorns.


With my box of rose petals in hand, the real challenge was still ahead.

Upon returning to the lab, I got to work on rolling up some rosies. Sasha, the unequivocal worldwide expert on constructing these novelty blunts, instructed those watching at home to line up three petals in an overlapping fashion before placing them in the oven for just ten seconds. Sasha said to set the oven to broil, but I ran into problems right away with my trusty toaster oven.


Because the heat source in a toaster oven is physically closer to the petals, the heating times were completely out of whack. After setting the not-so-easy-bake oven to broil and leaving the petals inside for the allotted ten seconds, what came out were brittle, blackened, extra well-done remnants of roses.

After adjusting my heating times for the alternative oven choice, fine-tuning took some trial and error. If there is too much moisture in the petals, the eventual wrap will be too soft and flimsy to roll — imagine a Backwood marinated for a week in tears. To nail this blunt rolling challenge, you must master the preheat of the petals as well as the post-roll dehydration session before you light it up. A finished rose blunt that isn’t properly dried out may spark initially but will definitely not stay lit, and you want a certain amount of firmness to the blunt so it won’t bend down and burn you mid-session.


The best rose blunts I rolled were dried in the oven until they turned a dark purple color while still maintaining some malleability. A departure from Sasha’s instructions, I found that removing the white, slightly hardened base of each petal where it attaches to the flower allowed for more rolling flexibility.

Next, the petals need to be attached to one another before you can fill the wrap with flower. While Sasha simply gives the back of each petal a quick lick before fastening them to each other, the process wasn’t as easy for me — getting the petals to stay fastened to one another was a painstaking task at times.

Needless to say, I cheated. But you won’t be upset after you hear how and why.


The frustration of the petals separating mid-roll started to get to me, so I upped the ante on these rose blunts by fastening the petals together with some concentrate. Obviously, going off Sasha’s script wasn’t planned, but we like to consider ourselves innovators at, so it only made sense to include some delicious “nectar” in our flower-infused flowers. If you plan on copying this modified rose blunt, add a little drying time before you roll, as you’ll only want to do limited heating of the blunt after you add any extracts to the wrap.

weed in roses

The petals themselves, once dried and situated perfectly, actually roll quite well. If you’ve mastered the art of rolling Backwoods blunts, you shouldn’t have any trouble with roses.

rolling rose blunt

While a little wobbly, the petals tend to stay where you need them while folding and licking the rest of the seal. The tried and true method of licking all seams and using your lighter to dry out and sanitize will serve you well here.


It took me roughly three times longer to roll the rose blunt as it would a traditional blunt, but the smiles it generated from bystanders and smoking participants were well worth it.

The one prevailing question I heard from onlookers was, “are roses safe to smoke?” The answer is a relative yes, especially when compared to any tobacco leaf blunt you’d already be burning alternatively. In fact, there are some redeeming qualities to replacing your normal weed wrap personal preference with the flower formerly only bought on Valentine’s Day or when your girl is “mad as hell at you.”

According to Kulreet Chaudhary, M.D., roses aren’t just beautiful decoration or gifts but surprisingly effective as a healing natural medicine as well. Rose oil has long been utilized in aromatherapy to “soothe allergies or asthma, calm anger, alleviate depression, help with headaches, and lighten feelings of resentment, jealousy, and grief.”

finished rose blunts

Image courtesy of Lauren Grotz

Inhaling the oil from rose petals already helps the user achieve a soothing, restorative slumber, so imagine throwing a heaping helping of some Indica-dominant flower into the mix (I HIGHly recommend the recently-reviewed Animal Cookies).

Images courtesy of Stephen Panosian


Start a Marijuana Business Today:™ offers a comprehensive business model for recommending Medical Marijuana Certifications and/or Dispensary Ownership in your area. The™ Business Support staff will educate you in every of the growing medical marijuana industry, providing you a fully operational and profitable enterprise. Learn More »