The Butte fire erupted in Calaveras County last September, burning over 70,000 acres and causing two fatalities according to the latest Incident File from CAL FIRE. As the seventh worst fire in California’s history, it is surprising to see future potential come from such a travesty.
According to The Sacramento Bee, The Calaveras County Board of Supervisors saw the aftermath of this fire as an opportunity to permit commercial cultivation of medical cannabis, and they approved an ordinance to do exactly that on May 10. This urgent ordinance will allow for approved local growers to grow one-quarter acre of medical cannabis on a property that is at least two acres and one-half-acre for properties that are four acres. This is just half the size that existing cannabis growers are permitted to grow in Humboldt, a northern California city known for its cannabis cultivation.
The ordinance was passed by a 4-1 vote after cannabis activists expressed their opinions to board members regarding cannabis cultivation. Activists shared how cannabis cultivation could lead to huge profits for Calaveras, as well as the importance of stopping non-local people from purchasing Calaveras land for cannabis cultivation.
In order to empower local farmers, lawmakers created a medical cannabis program that gave property owners who previously had cannabis gardens in the county before May 10 to be eligible to cultivate cannabis. Farmers had until June 30 to apply for the program.
One of the communities burned by this fire was Mountain Ranch. Thomas Liberty is a former Air Force psychiatric technician and group home counselor for teens who used to live in a small house in Mountain Ranch with his wife, Lauren, before his home (which included a small cannabis garden) was one of the 860 houses claimed by the Butte fire.
Although the fire destroyed his home, Liberty explained to The Sacramento Bee how this new cultivation opportunity is bringing some hope to himself and the local community, “It’s a very weird part of the recovery. We had a lot of people lose their homes and possessions, and they either had insufficient insurance or no insurance at all. And many people saw this as a way of coming back.”
Liberty not only applied to cultivate cannabis on his existing property, he applied for an additional permit to cultivate cannabis on a second property as well. This new measure is expected to bring in up to $4 million in tax revenue.