On September 12, Iverson Family Farms posted ominous images on social media of their fields under a ruddy red sky, thick with a stagnant, dense haze—a stark contrast to the vibrant annual Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival, a well-known spring attraction in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. As the Beachie Creek and Riverside fires raged roughly 25 miles away, the farm was in Stage 3 evacuation for 10 surreal autumn days.
Cannabis, too, may have smoke damage—but, compared to wine grapes, there is far less research yet available on the impact of phenols. The Global Hemp Innovation Center at Oregon State University has just formed an industry collaborative to assess the smoke impacts on everything from smokable cannabis flowers to essential oils, such as CBD.
Given the sticky nature of cannabis flowers, traces of toxic chemicals in ash or smoke carry additional concerns. In Oregon’s Jackson County, home to the Rogue Valley’s 6,300 registered hemp acres, the Almeda Fire burned a number of manufactured homes, raising concerns about heavy metals—for chromium to arsenic in pressure-treated wood—that could be difficult to wash off.
In Oregon, 17 percent of grow sites statewide faced imminent danger from wildfires in late September, which is roughly 10 percent of Oregon’s outdoor cannabis acreage, according to hemp industry analysis group Hemp Benchmarks. Growers, especially those who are relatively new to the crop, have had a lot of questions. More than 350 people attended a September 23 virtual hemp field day, seeking answers.
The most pressing questions were: what amounts of contaminants may affect quality and safety of products, and are residues, such as heavy metal contamination, left behind on the plants, says Jeff Steiner, associate director of Oregon State University’s Global Hemp Innovation Center, which hosted the online event. “We just don’t have answers yet,” he says.
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