Dangerous Working Conditions For Outdoor Cannabis Farmers In Heat Wave


hands in dirt planting a small cannabis plant

This summer came in HOT. Multiple regions in the Western United States are experiencing a heat wave, creating increased danger for outdoor cannabis farmworkers. The unseasonal heat is caused by a “Heat Dome” that settled over the area in mid-June. A heat dome refers to high-pressure circulation in the atmosphere that acts as a lid and traps the heat back down to the surface. Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, and California have all experienced over 115 degrees for several consecutive days, setting new record highs.

While some of these desert states may be more prepared to handle this type of weather, places in the northwest, like Oregon and Washington, are installing new safety precautions to combat this unprecedented heat. The Northwest is known as an outdoor cannabis hub, the natural climate of the region creating optimal growing conditions for the plant. However, with the heat dome soaring temperatures 20-50 degrees above average, outdoor cultivators are monitoring their crops closely.

Growing Outdoor Cannabis In The Heat

Unhealthy burned cannabis plant

Cannabis is equipped to handle certain amounts of heat, the genetics of the plant playing a big part in this. Strains that are native to more hot and arid climates have developed characteristics to combat these potentially harmful variables. States like Nevada and Arizona take advantage of this, choosing specific strains that will be more effective in that climate. When it comes to extreme heat, however, cannabis would rather not have it. Plants in the vegetative state can withstand more heat, but once in flowering, extreme temperatures could slow trichome production and burn the roots. If leaves begin to wilt, droop or curl, this could signal heat stress or dehydration. 

Extreme heat doesn’t just mean dehydration for the plants either. Outdoor cultivations require the hard labor of many individuals in the field tending to the plants. In early June, a farmer in St. Paul, Oregon, was discovered unconscious after his shift. He never woke up, his death caused by heat exhaustion.

Safety First

In response to this incident, the United Farm Workers union has asked state governors to enact temporary regulations to help keep workers safe. These regulations could ensure that there are shaded areas for rest, cool water readily available, and frequent breaks from direct heat exposure.

Many cannabis farmers in operation have already begun installing these new precautions on their own. Cultivators have shifted their operation hours to earlier in the day to avoid the midday heat. They have also installed shade cloth throughout their greenhouses. One secret ingredient for keeping both the people and plants happy and healthy is water. With increased irrigation and a more frequent watering schedule, keeping the plant roots cool and moist is the key. The same goes for our bodies, especially when at work in prolonged exposure, frequently refueling with H2O is critical to our health.

Find a shady tree to rest under and Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate!

Check out these heat resistant cannabis strains!

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Caitlyn Brook

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