Can Cannabis Farms Weather Wildfire Season?

In 2013, Joy Hollingsworth moved with her family from Seattle out to the country with a plan to build a cannabis business.

Washington State had recently legalized recreational marijuana, and Barack Obama had just been re-elected. For Ms. Hollingsworth, a former basketball player, and her brother, Raft Hollingsworth III, a former University of Washington student who had been growing medical marijuana, it seemed like as good a time as any to buy a farm and turn a profit.

So began the Hollingsworth Cannabis Company, a Black-owned family business in what has become a very white and increasingly corporate-dominated industry.

“Here are some city Black folks moving out to the middle of nowhere, a predominantly white area,” Ms. Hollingsworth, 36, said, recalling the early days in Shelton, a small city near Olympic National Park where the family built their farm. “I thought they were going to have a problem with us growing cannabis. The reality is most of our neighbors love weed.”

What they were worried about was water.

The area is prone to drought and has dealt with escalating unpredictable weather patterns over the last several years. “We’re getting more rain in August and more snow in the winter,” Ms. Hollingsworth said — so much snow, in fact, that last year one of her greenhouses collapsed under its weight.

The excess precipitation means too much water and humidity for crops to flourish. And in recent months, Ms. Hollingsworth said, they’ve had to worry about fires.

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