The forest fires in British Columbia, Alberta and the states of Oregon, Montana and Wyoming this summer didn’t just consume trees, animals and some people’s homes. In the fires’ path was millions of dollars worth of the world’s highest grade marijuana, and the growers who tend it.
A pot grower from Kelowna, BC, where more than 30,000 residents were evacuated, told Cannabis Culture how he was forced to leave 500 indoor plants to the mercy of the unstoppable fires. Later, he discovered that “30-story-high flames” ate his home and livelihood. The destruction was so complete that no evidence of his grow op remained.
This year, barely a sprinkle of water blessed the parched mountains, foothills and valleys of BC, and when water did fall it brought lightning, which sparked further fires. In many places unburned, 100-year-old trees withered in the heat, some smaller trees died, and grasslands stretched brown and flat in all directions. Smoke hung high in the air, mocking the rain clouds with its enormity.
Some reclusive growers hike out to remote areas and spend long periods in the wilderness with little outside contact, and may not have even known that they were in danger.
One grower I spoke to, from central BC, was tanned and beefy from carrying water to gardens high in the hills, where the creeks that should have wetted his precious plants had dwindled. He told me how, haunted by smoke from nearby fires, he and his business partners tended their weed, hoping that their green patches didn’t stand out too much against the otherwise desert-like surroundings.
Regardless, they also had reason to be optimistic.
“I’m not too worried about enforcement this year,” said the grower. “They are going to need everything they’ve got ? helicopters, planes, everything ? to fight those fires. There’s nothing left over for the growbusters right now.”
Of more concern to some growers are government measures ostensibly aimed at preventing more fires: many access roads are now blocked with cables and chains, and anyone caught in the BC backcountry faces a fine of up to $10,000 and six months in jail. Even if their crop isn’t consumed by flame, getting back to harvest will be difficult for many.