Campfire Cannabis

written by Alexandra Arnett @calyx.alex photographed by Kimberly Harris

Oregon, California and the rest of the West Coast have had their fair share of wildfires throughout the years. Here in the city of Eugene, we have been fortunate enough to not be directly affected by these wildfires outside of the smoke. However, many cannabis farms have not been so lucky when it comes to wildfire, and outdoor operations across Oregon have all had to deal with second-hand effects such as smoke and ash. 

Outdoor growing and greenhouses operations were some of the most affected by this year’s fires. The OLCC reported that over 20% of their licensees were in evacuation areas for the fires. Several dispensaries were lost in Southern Oregon, including Talent Health Club, Grateful Meds, Canyon Cannabis, Fireside Dispensary, and Blue River Grass Station. Roganja Farms and Primo Farms were two farms we are aware of that had plants destroyed by the fires. One cannabis testing lab, EcoTest Labs, reportedly lost their building as well. 

I took this opportunity to speak with a couple of growers located in Oregon to get some information about their experiences with the fires and smoke. Heroes of the Farm is one of several northeast Oregon farms that had plants affected by the wildfire smoke and ash. Pat, head grower and owner, combated the ash that fell on his plants with a backpack leaf blower which seemed to blow most of it off. Pat also noted that the heavy smoke from the fires turns the pistols of the plant dark orange. This, he stated, gives the appearance of plants that are ready to harvest when in reality, the plants have a few weeks to go before they are fully mature. He says he hopes the smell of smoke doesn’t stick through the harvest and curing process.

The next is a southern Oregon farm located at the top of the infamous “Emerald Triangle.” 42 Degrees Farms is an outdoor hemp farm that is focused on growing craft hemp. Shane has been growing cannabis for over 10 years and this last year decided to grow hemp varieties of cannabis. 42 Degrees was extremely thankful that their farm was spared from any flames coming from the Alameda Fire, which started just about three miles north of their property. While the plants did have some days where the sun was clouded in thick smoke, they believe the rains in the days before harvest may have helped clean up the plants. While their plants didn’t show any significant changes, they did have other friends experience similar changes to what Pat described above in their own plants. During the fires, the 42 Degrees team continued to put in the hard work through the hazardous air conditions in order to have a successful harvest this October. 

So we have to ask the question, what does all this smoke and ash mean for the plants? You may remember back in 2017 when the entire state of Oregon was harshly affected by several wildfires, much like summer 2020. That year’s outdoor harvest of cannabis was extremely difficult for growers and many lost money on their harvests. Almost any pound of outdoor cannabis you could find was never more than $800, some were as low as $300, which means that there was plenty of cheap cannabis to go around at the dispensaries. This cannabis had some caveats though. No matter what strain you got, it all smelled like a campfire. 

Back in 2017, as a budtender, I did not hear many customers complaining about the prices for this campfire cannabis. However, no one seemed to be wildly concerned about the quality of the product either, or how the fires may have affected it. Oregon currently has four testing categories for cannabis products; pesticides, water activity/moisture content, cannabinoids and microbiological contaminants (Salmonella, E. Coli, etc). 

Cannabis products in Oregon are not tested for mycotoxins (mold), heavy metals and terpenes unless requested and paid for by the grower. In addition to these testing requirements, there are also strings attached. For example, in Oregon, you can take cannabis flower that did not pass its initial testing and then process it into an extract instead. As long as that final product has a passing test it can be sold. These products can range from not only the dabs you buy at the shop, but cartridges, edibles, topicals and tinctures.

A large part of what makes smoke and ash so toxic is the materials that it burns through. Think about what you have in your own house; cleaning supplies, electronics, wood, paint, kitchen appliances, etc. All of these create toxic chemicals when burned, including heavy metals, which are then present in the smoke you breathe and the ash you see. Fire retardants can also pose risks if used near plants and any water supply.

When dealing with cannabis that has been contaminated by wildfires it is important to run a thorough laboratory analysis. However, this isn’t always an easy thing to do as there are no set procedures on how to analyze potential hazards resulting from smoke and ash damage. Laboratories also are not held to a single standardized testing method.

Aside from testing the cannabis for safety to ingest after being exposed to wildfire smoke and ash, another thing is overall quality. Cannabis plants that have been exposed to smoke and ash undergo a lot of stress, which can be a huge detriment to the plant. This affects the maturity of trichomes, which are what contain all the cannabinoids and terpenes we all love so much. In extreme situations, you could end up with a far more inferior product that is not likely to smell, taste, or look good.

This season, dispensaries may not be letting you smell the cannabis before you purchase because we are still in a pandemic, so trusting your budtender and taking their word for it will be the best way to avoid smoking some campfire cannabis. 

If you would like to donate money to help cannabis businesses that are in need, Southern Oregon grower Noah Levine of Benson Arbor graciously set up this GoFundMe fundraiser. 

Madame Mary Jane’s Harvest Horoscopes

illustration by Renee Thompson @renee.eporita

Aries (March 21st- April 20th)

Aries, there will be a small change that will seem chaotic or stressful to you, like maybe your favorite budtender leaving or your favorite strain disappearing, but don’t get too strung out over it. Instead, go with the flow and embrace this new change and break your old routine by trying something new like an edible or concentrate. 

Fall Tarot Card: The Tower (distress, adversity, disgrace)

Taurus (April 21st- May 21st)

Taurus, now is the time to splurge on something you’ve always been curious about. Perhaps it is a bit more in price or THC content than you’re used to, but as long as you’re comfortable you should reach out for that special something. If you’ve never tried it, try getting a pearl and watching a spooky movie. 

Fall Tarot Card: Three of Wands (effort, discovery, strength)

Gemini (May 22nd- June 21st)

Gemini, if you’ve been feeling stuck lately take a chance and trust the recommendation of your favorite stoner. Have they been raving about a certain strain? Does your budtender swear by this harvest’s Blue Dream? Now is the time to get out of your funk and find out what all the ruckus is about.

Fall Tarot Card: The Chariot (providence, triumph, chance)

Cancer (June 22nd- July 22nd)

Cancer, when you find yourself feeling dull and worn out from your usual 420 routine, consider taking T-break and cutting out or lower your THC consumption. Taking a T-break can help you ‘clear the fog’ you’ve been stuck in lately and heighten your next experience when you want to reintroduce THC again. 

Fall Tarot Card: Knight of Wands (absence, departure, flight)

Leo (July 23rd- August 23rd)

Leo, when you want to treat yourself to something new, think about trying an activated beverage. These drinks can be a great way to experience the modern advances of the cannabis industry and if you’ve ever wondered what a canna-twist on drinks like lemonade, soda, and beer taste like, bring it up to your favorite budtender. 

Fall Tarot Card: Temperance (moderation, frugality, economy)

Virgo (August 24th- September 22nd) 

Virgo, remember that the transition from summer to fall is harder for others. If you’ve been feeling slightly depressed or sluggish, try a fruity sativa like Grapefruit. You can also try doing activities in sunlight and exercising, like smoking a joint after an autumn walk or hike.

Fall Tarot Card: Nine of Swords (disappointment, despair, sluggishness) 

Libra (September 23rd- October 22nd) 

Libra, if you are ready to try something stronger than your usual THC treat, maybe it’s time to try concentrates. In my experience, concentrates made from OG strains are usually easy to find in the fall time, but this can change from harvest to harvest, so ask your budtender what they recommend next time you stop in on Shatterday. 

Fall Tarot Card: The Emperor (power, stability, reason)

Scorpio (October 23rd- November 21st)

Scorpio, this fall I recommend trying out more indicas. You’re in need of that calm, peaceful feeling that indicas are famous for producing. Now might also be an excellent time to get into making art or carving a jack-o-lantern. My personal favorite indicas have always been in the Kush family, mostly because there always seems to be fun combinations. Maybe you can try a few out and find a new favorite. 

Fall Tarot Card: Four of Wands (harmony, peace, prosperity) 

Sagittarius (November 22nd- December 21st) 

Sagittarius, this season you should spend your time diversifying your cannabis palette. One easy way to do this is to take advantage of gram specials. Now is a good time for you to settle on a favorite dispensary, or at least take this as an excuse to branch out more in your consumption habits. 

Fall Tarot Card: Three of Swords (removal, division, dispersion) 

Capricorn (December 22nd- January 20th) 

Capricorn, for this spooky season, I recommend experimenting with mild or low THC strains like R4 or Charlotte’s Web and focusing on mindfulness. But if you are thinking about trying more than one strain out this fall, try and keep a journal about your favorite CBD strains and how you interact with them. 

Fall Tarot Card: Eight of Cups (mildness, joy, modesty) 

Aquarius (January 21st- February 19th)

Aquarius, as someone who tends to be off in their own world, I would suggest at some point this season using a canna-bath bomb. Especially if you find your thoughts being more tangled than usual. Taking a nice canna-bath can give you time to mull things over and treat sore muscles. 

Tarot Card: Ace of Swords (love, triumph, excessive)

Pisces (February 20th- March 20th) 

Pisces, this fall is a time for you to return to your roots. For many of us, this means smoking a joint. This could also be a good time to go back to your first favorite strains if you’re feeling nostalgic. Whatever brings you back to your favorite moments, and if you haven’t learned yet, try rolling your own joints or carving your own apple pipe. 

Fall Tarot Card: The Hierophant (tradition, alliance, goodness)