A tornado just devastated a medical cannabis farm in Oklahoma, and a local TV news station was on hand to capture the tragedy on video.
Last week, a storm front spawned several tornadoes as it traveled through the small town of Maud in central Oklahoma. A news crew from KOCO 5 filmed one of these tornadoes tearing through a legal weed farm, destroying almost every one of the 50 greenhouses on site.
Miraculously, no one was injured by the devastation, but the farm's owner estimates that nearly $95,000 worth of cannabis plants were destroyed. Some plants did survive the destruction, but now that the greenhouses that used to protect them are so heavily damaged, they are not expected to survive the elements.
“This is the first season of the year, so now that the plants are exposed to the weather like this, they’re wasted – not good no more,” a farm employee told KOCO. “I’m still in shock. I haven’t fully wrapped my head around this.”
The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority said that it dispatched agents to the farm to survey the damage and ensure that none of the surviving weed plants are stolen.
The tornado also flipped over and destroyed several mobile homes that belonged to employees who were living on the property. Thankfully, local community advocacy groups arrived immediately after the tornado passed in order to offer assistance to people who lost their homes.
Paul Thao of the Hmong American Association Oklahoma told KOCO that these workers are “part of the community, the Hmong community, and we are the nonprofit organization in Tulsa but they’re part of the family members.”
The farm was just kicking off its second full business season, and its owners are not certain how they will survive the tragedy. Because cannabis is still prohibited by federal law, most legal weed companies are not eligible for the same insurance and disaster relief benefits that every other business can receive.
Although the disaster may amount to a total loss for this one business, Oklahoma's overall supply of cannabis is not likely to suffer. The state's relaxed medical marijuana law has allowed the local weed industry to grow exponentially. As of last year, the state had over 8,850 licensed cultivators and nearly 2,500 dispensaries – that's 56 dispensaries for every 100,000 citizens – more than any other state.
Extreme weather has also had a serious impact on the West Coast cannabis industry. Cannabis farmers in California, Oregon, and neighboring states have recently been struggling to survive a recent wave of droughts and wildfires exacerbated by climate change.