California growers concerned about smoke-tainted cannabis

SONOMA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO/CNN) — A young but booming industry in California is carefully watching the wildfire crisis in the state. They’re worried the growing flames will have a negative effect on one of the state’s biggest crops: cannabis.

It’s harvest time in Sonoma County. We’ve already heard about the grapes and concerns about how smoke taint from fires will eliminate some vintages. It is a great concern to Erich Pearson, who is part biologist, part grower, and full-time CEO at Sparc in Glenn Ellen.

Right now, his crop is coming in. Towering, flowering cannabis. Acres of it. In Sonoma County, other growers have concerns about smoke taint as well.

Smoke taint in cannabis is different from smoke taint in grapes. In grapes, smoke taint effects taste. In cannabis, people don’t want ashes on their pot. If those ashes happen to be polluted, they don’t want that pot at all.

Pearson explained, there is organic smoke from a forest, which is what’s on these plants, because there’s no structures nearby. But if you have a structure fire nearby, you could have all kinds of chemicals on your plant that you want to make sure you test for to make sure it’s not contaminating the product.

After the fires, Pearson had some 20,000 plants to clear of ash. It’s necessary considering that cannabis is easily a $100 million a year taxable product in Sonoma County, and growing both figuratively and literally.

“The wine industry is sort of flattening out,” Pearson said. “Sonoma County can use all the tourism dollars it can get right now because of the fires. And we hope that this industry can add to that.

The ash this year will not be a game-breaker for Pearson, especially considering how several other legal growers lost their crops to the Glass Fire. But even as those flames fade, it is clear; their consequences continue.

CAL FIRE officials said the forward spread has stopped when it comes to the state’s fast-moving Glass Fire. That’s due in part to containment lines.

The Glass Fire has burned more than 100 square miles. At last check, it was

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