Oregon marijuana businesses help pot farms lost to California wildfires

FILE -- A firefighter, center, and two onlookers watch a smoldering wildfire from a hilltop, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, in Oakville, Calif. (AP File Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Cannabis businesses in Oregon are raising money to help marijuana growers who lost their crops in the wildfires that ripped through northern California in October. The campaign, Buds Without Borders, was launched on Giving Tuesday, when people were encouraged to donate to charitable causes.

The fires ripped through parts of wine country a few months before the end of the permitting and licensing process, just shy of when recreational marijuana is legalized in the state on Jan. 1, 2018.

"It just really hit home," said Meghan Walstatter, the co-owner of Portland's Pure Green, who is sponsoring the fundraiser. She said friends in Santa Rosa had to leave all their belongings behind to escape the flames.

As many as 30 pot farms burned in the fires in Sonoma County, according to the Sonoma County Growers Alliance.

"You're talking about the full crop at its peak, just about ready to harvest, which in a lot of cases with these farms are millions of dollars' worth of crops," said Matt Walstatter, who co-owns Pure Green.

Months after the fire, Dennis Rosatti, a board member of the Sonoma County Growers Alliance, said farmers haven't received much assistance. He said farms had not been licensed by the state yet, and, therefore, were not insured. He said cannabis crops are not eligible for federal disaster or emergency assistance.

"By in large, especially outdoor growers, had no option for crop insurance," Rosatti said.

Near Santa Rosa, at Mystic Spring Farms, the land is covered in ashes. Razor Lopas' home that he shared with his children and family was destroyed alongside his crop. Lopas' estimates he lost about $2.8 million.

On Oct. 8, he noticed the power switch off and his generator turn on. He said he could smell smoke at around 9:30 p.m.

"By 10 o'clock we were running for the car as flames came onto both sides of the property," Lopas said.

On his farms patches of cannabis plants were still green, but covered by ash.

"They were completely contaminated from smoke. Even though it was green, there is nothing of value there. It wasn't good medicine," he said.

Rosatti said he hopes the campaign is successful in helping farms rebuild.

"Political borders are lines on a map. If I've seen anything in these fires, it's that communities come together. The resilience is so amazing. If we put our minds and heads together, we can do anything."

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