Tragically at least thirty-four marijuana farms suffered extensive damage as a result of the deadly wildfires that destroyed much of California’s cherished wine country last week. The raging fires have impacted cannabis crops all across Northern California. As air quality reached hazardous levels here in Oakland we heard from many concerned cannabis growers including commercial cultivators and local home-growers as well as other concerned cannabis community members—all looking for answers about what to do with their contaminated crop or how to identify affected cannabis.
Last week many Nor Cal-based marijuana-testing labs were unable to comment or provide solutions because wildfire-affected weed hadn’t yet arrived to be tested. So then we asked several growers what they think cultivators should do with the affected cannabis. While many suggested to just toss the marijuana and move on we wondered if any of it could be saved? Are there ways to treat the affected marijuana so that it’s safe to consume? We also worried for future customers about purchasing possibly toxic pot—how could they identify fire-tainted cannabis?
Luckily we spoke with Kevin Jodrey, Cultivation Director of Wonderland Nursery, co-founder of The Ganjier and Humboldt’s famed Golden Tarp Awards—known for their high standards of testing. With the Awards fast approaching on November 18th Kevin was kind enough to go on record to provide a few answer a that should help some local growers better understand the options they have with regards to this year’s crop as well as help local cannabis patients identify possibly affected cannabis.
Stuff Stoners Like: Is the cannabis exposed to the wine country fires safe to consume?
Kevin Jodrey: That depends. Fires can kick up many soil-borne contaminants and other contaminants from burning materials that they can leave that material deposited on the surface of the plants exposed to the winds carrying that smokey residue. If your plants are covered in the waste materials from that burning process it’s very likely you will not pass a fungal screening and may not pass a toxicity analysis depending on what toxins were burned in the fire and subsequently deposited on your plants.
If your plants were in a fire area but did not get covered in the residue of the fire than you will not have the same impact at all and may pass all tests provided you were going to pass before the fire struck. This implies your flowers were relatively fungal free and totally free of pesticide, fungicide, and growth regulators because that’s how you grow and your plants stayed healthy.
Stuff Stoners Like: Is there a way to treat the cannabis exposed to the wine country wildfires to make safer to consume?
Kevin Jodrey: Yes, there are methods used to help remove the residue from the fire if deposition has occurred. Water by itself in barrels is used as a post harvest-prehang pretreatment to remove dirt and particulate waste. If fungal contamination is also feared one can use water with an ounce per gallon of 35% h2o2 (hydrogen peroxide) and do the same dunking process to allow the water with the h2o2 to attack the fungal spores and wipe them out so they cannot colonize on the plant’s surfaces.
With the advent of extraction, one can have the product turned into a crude oil which strips away all the flavor and odor of the product. If the product has chemical contamination this will not work but for minor fungal and smoke, it works great. The smell and flavor can be added back in after processing is complete using cannabis-derived terpenes or plant-derived terpenes. Both are used in production today.
Stuff Stoners Like: How can one determine if ones medicine has been negatively impacted by the wildfires?
Kevin Jodrey: The answer is two part. First, from an actual scientific point of view, you need a lab to make an analysis and determine if there are contaminants. Cannabis sold legally in licensed stores in California should have this done prior to sale to the public. If you are a farmer who grows for personal use only, then you can have a lab test your product so you know where you are in terms of safety.
The second answer is, “does the flower appeal to you from a sensory point of view.” Your nose knows so to speak and trusting in the fact that you smell smoke means well, you smell smoke. Smoke flavors take away the delicate monoterpenes which make the high so uplifting and exciting, replacing them with a dull monotone flavor and scent.
Do people still smoke tainted product? I’m sure they do but people still non-smoke damaged product also so I don’t think it is especially targeted per se. People who still make use of opportunity and people fleeing for their lives from the fire are not able to protect their crops so I’m sure that more theft occurs then than normal but thankfully we don’t have fires this large every year so it’s not a cyclical trend.
Stuff Stoners Like: You’ve had smoke-damaged marijuana entered in the Golden Tarp Awards previously, right?
Kevin Jodrey: Yes, it has shown up in the past. At our first Golden Tarp Awards four years ago, smoke damage was the suspected culprit in a 50% failure rate in entries primarily due to fungal contamination. The subsequent years have seen less than a 2% failure rate so the thought that fires create these problems has been a much talked about and agreed upon a topic from the testing we have done. The testing taught us about what happens to your crop during these fire periods and what one can do to minimize crop losses.
Stuff Stoners Like: How will the smoke from the wine country wildfire affect local marijuana?
Kevin Jodrey: Depending on how close you were to the fire or how much the wind placed fire borne material on your products will radically change how the flower looks and smells. Smoke damage coupled with high temperatures damages the living tissues of the flowers rendering them a dull off green grey brown when dried. Smoke damage removes the exotic scents that drive people to be attracted to cannabis so selling the product without changing it into an extract is close to impossible.
People who enter competitions such as mine know there will be thorough testing using a highly respected lab, Pure Analytics in our case, and expect a rigorous judging process. There is no sense in entering a product that you know won’t make it through the judging process due to appearance or odor so most just don’t. Our testing process revealed the effects on flowers from fire damage so many in the impacted areas will attend the event digitally but not compete as the risk of fungal failure too high to risk the money and the product. That’s a financial reality that growers face as well as all farmers. Do what you can afford to do. People who enter are usually very honest with themselves about the quality of their flowers and want their best to be seen because that is how they really produce at an exceptional level, good enough to be judged by peers. If the tragedy of fire hits you, hopefully you remain happy to be alive, happy friends and loved ones survived, and happy that next season comes anew with potential for a greener future.
Were your outdoor crops affected by the wine country wildfires? Have any questions, comments or concerns about marijuana that has been affected by the wine country fires? Please leave them in the comment section below.