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US: Climate change one of the biggest threats to cannabis growing

Valerie Leveroni Corral spent days after lightning set the Santa Cruz Mountains on fire not knowing if a cannabis crop her organization grows for the sick and dying had survived.

The conflagration—part of the explosion of lightning-sparked wildfires in mid-August that kicked off the earliest, worst fire season in California history—blazed a devastating trail. It scorched 85,509 acres in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties and destroyed 1,490 structures, including 925 single family homes. Among them was the property Corral called home until three years ago, a farm that had become part of local history and lore.

Not long before cannabis became legal, the biggest threat to growing cannabis outdoors was the law. Now it's a constellation of climate change-fueled weather disasters: drought, record heat and fires so big they take weeks and thousands of firefighters to extinguish.

The August Complex in Northern California is the latest largest fire in state history burning more than one million acres as of Oct. 5. It has threatened the fabled cannabis mecca known as the Emerald Triangle: three counties—Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity—with the largest concentration of cannabis farms in the country. In tiny towns shrouded by forests, pot growers have stared down evacuation orders as if they were bar room dares. Despite warnings that firefighters would not risk their lives for people who refused to leave when ordered, most growers, law enforcement officials said, stayed to defend their crops from fire and thieves.


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