The threat of wildfire to cannabis agriculture in California

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Christopher Dillis, Van Butsic, Diana Moanga, Phoebe Parker-Shames, Ariani Wartenberg, Ted Grantham


At the intersection of climate change and rural development, wildfire has emerged as a threat to agriculture in the western United States. This nexus is particularly problematic for the rapidly developing cannabis industry in California, which includes farms located outside of traditional agricultural zones and within landscapes potentially more prone to wildfire. Using fire hazard severity metrics, current and historical wildfire perimeter data, and future burn regime projections, we compared the location of licensed cannabis farms in California to other agricultural types, to determine if cannabis is uniquely vulnerable to wildfire. We found that cannabis farming was located closer to wildfire perimeters and more often in high fire hazard severity zones than other agriculture. Over the last 50 years, the distance between cannabis farm locations and fire perimeters decreased significantly, and projected burn regimes for the remainder of the century place cannabis farms at greater risk than other agricultural types. Our findings highlight cannabis’ particular vulnerability to wildfire in California. In light of the sector’s growing importance in the state, and given potentially direct and indirect consequences (e.g., human health risks, socioeconomic impacts), these risks should be considered for the development of future cannabis and rural development policies.





marijuana, fire hazard severity, land use planning, rural agriculture


Published: 2021-03-22 10:16

Last Updated: 2021-03-22 17:16


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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All data are publicly available and listed in manuscript