Unlike grape growers, cannabis growers who lost their plants in the fires don't qualify for crop insurance. But the news isn't all bad. Qualified cultivators will get some tax relief from Sonoma County.
Tax bills for growers in the legal pipeline are due Oct. 31. But those with damaged or lost crops can request a reassessment of their farms. No crops, no tax.
"They're not out of luck," says Andrew Smith, deputy agricultural commissioner for Sonoma County's Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures. "You shouldn't have to pay tax on something that's not marketable."
The ag department is helping growers get out to see their property in fire-affected areas. "We anticipate the need for [crop-loss assessments] to be very great," says Smith.
Eligible growers include those who have applied for permits or those who have filled out a penalty-relief form. Taxes for growers are based on the canopy size of their crops.
According to Tim Ricard, project manager with the county's Economic Development Board, 122 permit applications have been submitted to the county. The vast majority of those are for cultivation. Ricard said his agency has proposed the board of supervisors extend tax deadlines for the cannabis industry to Nov. 17, and to the end of November for those in the evacuation zones.
Tawnie Logan, president of the Sonoma County Growers Alliance board of directors, counts three permit applicants affected by the fire so far, and of those planning to submit applications, there are at least 10 cultivation sites, three manufacturing labs, two warehouses for mixed-permit use and two genetics nurseries lost or damaged by the fire.
Beyond that, for those disqualified for permits by zoning, Logan counts 15 cultivation sites lost and one lab operation that was looking for property with the proper zoning. As for home grows, she estimates at least 50 were lost in the city limits and another 50 in the unincorporated areas.
But that doesn't mean there is going to be shortage of cannabis. SPARC and CannaCraft, two major Sonoma County producers and distributors affected by the fires, say they will backfill their inventory from other sources in California. In the run-up to recreational legalization next year, the state's cannabis production this year is at an all-time high.