Red Cross' wildfire headquarters is massive marijuana factory
A major legal medical marijuana factory in Northern California has become the headquarters of the American Red Cross' relief efforts for tens of thousands of displaced evacuees fleeing the state's historic series of wildfires.
The 140-employee company CannaCraft in Santa Rosa is feeding and hosting 200 Red Cross staff for the next five weeks, said Kial Long, spokeswoman at the company. CannaCraft is providing 12,000 square-feet of office space to be used as the American Red Cross Regional Headquarters for Northern California fire relief.
Cannabis remains a federally banned controlled substance considered as dangerous as heroin. But eight states and Washington D.C. have legalized its over the counter use by adults 21 and over. Twenty-nine states have medical cannabis laws. Some 61 percent of U.S. voters support cannabis legalization and 91 percent support medical access to the pain-relieving botanical drug.
Hosting the Red Cross came out of company discussions about ways to help. After surveying available space and equipment, CannaCraft leaders reached out to the Red Cross and offered office space. The Red Cross sent a project leader over to evaluate the space.
"He said it fit their needs perfectly for their regional headquarters," said Long.
CannaCraft set up phone lines and internet access Friday and made the space comfortable for logistics and planning to organize relief efforts across the devastated region. CannaCraft is expecting 200 Red Cross volunteers from across the country to use the space for a minimum of five weeks. CannaCraft fed the Red Cross Friday and is offering cots for naps as well as showers. The space is not available to the evacuating public, rather it will serve as the Red Cross' hub to coordinate relief efforts regionwide.
The Red Cross had no qualms about occupying a federally illegal business' property, said Long.
"They said it was fine and it was more about what they could achieve. The business doesn't impact what they are doing."
CannaCraft has a 40,000 square-foot facility dedicated to extracting the active ingredients in cannabis and turning them into a variety of products including mouth sprays, and e-cigarette-like devices called vape pens. A wall separates the office space from the production area, said Long.
CannaCraft hosting the Red Cross might be the first such instance of its kind. Long said the Red Cross hasn't been asking for vape pens or other pot products.
The Red Cross will be busy at CannaCraft. Sunday night, hurricane force "Diablo" winds swept wildfire down into the northern part of Santa Rosa, burning thousands of home to ash and claiming an untold number of lives.
CannaCraft shut down Monday due to the fires but operated all week with a skeleton crew of staff as fires continued to ravage the region.
“We have no employees that were not impacted in some way or another,” Long said. “A lot of family, a lot of friends and a few employees did lose their homes.”
Those employees are also staying at CannaCraft facility, and coworkers are bringing them clothes, toiletries and other supplies.
"I think it's just very encouraging sight to see everyone in the company pull together."
"The cannabis industry has operated without a safety net for so long that we tend to look out for one another. CannaCraft has been fairly fortunate during this disaster which allows us to help out our cannabis community as well as our local community" said Ned Fussell, CannaCraft Co-CEO, in a statement.
Dennis Hunter, CannaCraft Co-CEO, added "We will continue to evaluate our resources including vehicles, property, facilities, equipment, and product to determine how to best serve our community at this time. We will be providing more information on these efforts as they develop."
CannaCraft pledged to give away $50,000 worth of medicine to affected patients, donate a portion of sales proceeds to benefit Red Cross relief efforts in the area.
CannaCraft is licensed by the city of Santa Rosa and operates under the state's 21 year-old medical marijuana laws.