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The Western Wildfires Are Threatening Cannabis Farms

Twenty percent of cannabis farms in Oregon are currently under evacuation, several farms in California are lost, and more are threatened

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The wildfires that continue to burn out of control across the western United States have destroyed thousands of homes, businesses, and, in some cases, entire towns. Cannabis businesses also have been caught in the fire's path.

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About 20 percent of Oregon cannabis businesses now face some level of evacuation, according to numbers from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission reported in The Oregonian. That number includes dispensaries as well as cannabis processors and producers.

Multiple wildfires in the West have led to about 500,000 people in Oregon alone coming under some level of evacuation order and about five million acres burned. Forecasters recently raised hopes that higher moisture in mid-September could slow the fires. However, the situation remains dangerous and unpredictable.

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Marijuana farms in Northern California have burned down.

Fires in Northern California, including the largest in state history, have already claimed several cannabis farms. Keala Peterson, with the small, family-run cannabis operation, Sweet Creek Farms in Sonoma County, told Marijuana Business Daily (MBD) that the farm lost about four-fifths of its crops to fire.

She also voiced concern that the destruction is far from over. "There are a ton of farms that are located in the fire's path. No one's out of the woods yet. This is just starting," she said.

She also noted that, like other farms in the area, the family did not have the Sweet Creek Farms crops insured. She expected the family farm would lose about $150,000. Luckily, they have other income streams and firefighters saved part of their family compound.

MBD reported that farms in Santa Cruz County and Yolo County also are in danger. David Polley, of Preferred Gardens in Yolo County, said smoke has damaged at 2,000 of his 12,000 plants.

"If this fire doesn't get under wraps, then everything is going to go down," Polley told MBD." We're just going to pray that doesn't happen."

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Even worse in Oregon

In recent days, much of the attention has shifted to Oregon, where multiple fires have forced people to flee homes and substantially destroyed entire towns such as Phoenix, Detroit, Blue River and Vida. About 408 marijuana businesses also faced some level of evacuation. Of those, 73 operate as marijuana producers.

Most of the impacted operations are in southern Oregon. About 62 percent of all the state's marijuana producers have operations in Josephine and Jackson counties, according to The Oregonian. The adjacent counties are both on the border with California.

However, other parts of Oregon also face a potential disaster. Both businesses and homes in Clackamas County southeast of Portland are in the path of the fast-moving Riverside fire, which is one of five fires in Oregon bigger than 100,000 acres. The New York Times reported that people had gathered at RV parks for shelter as the fires drew closer. Numerous marijuana dispensaries operate in the county.

Oregon ranked among the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, right behind Washington and Colorado. The industry has quickly become a powerful force in the state's economy.

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