Thousands of buildings and businesses have burned down in Northern California since wildfires started to sweep through the region Sunday night, and several marijuana farms in the so-called Emerald Triangle have gone up in smoke.
It's a heavy hit for owners, who don't have insurance on their crops because of federal laws against marijuana. Derek Peterson, CEO of Terra Tech, told CNN Money farmers on average invest $5 million in their facilities and up to $3 million on growing the crop, and "if their facilities burn down, a lot of these people won't be able to get any economic relief for them from an insurance claim. There's no mechanism for recovery to repay them for their loss. It's a tremendous risk for these people."
Medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996, and in 2016, sales totaled $2.8 billion. Californians voted to approve recreational marijuana last year, and the retail market will open in January 2018. Growers whose crops haven't been burned down are frantically harvesting early, to save the crops should the flames reach their farms and to keep the cannabis from being tainted by the smoke. There are an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 marijuana farms in California, and it's unclear how many have burned down. "Here comes this fire at the worst possible time for them," Peterson said. "I have a lot of friends who are really troubled right now." Catherine Garcia
The Big Easy just got a little harder for dedicated smokers: When clocks struck midnight on Wednesday, New Orleans put the kibosh on smoking in bars. The newly enacted ban was met with some annoyance and lots of shrugs, The New York Times reports, and at least one bar passed out nicotine gum to smoking patrons. Some bars and Harrah's casino are suing to overturn the ordinance.
New Orleans isn't quashing all its trademark vices — you can still smoke, and drink alcohol, outside — and tobacco-loving revelers can still go to Vegas, Philadelphia, or Atlanta if they want to smoke in bars. Musicians seem especially pleased by the ban, as The Associated Press captures in the video below. —Peter Weber
An FDA advisory panel voted on claims put forward by Swedish Match, a smokeless tobacco manufacturer, on Friday, Time reports.
The company wants to do away with warning labels on its smokeless tobacco product snus, arguing that snus presents "substantially lower risks to health than cigarettes." The committee split on the question of whether using smokeless tobacco products really is substantially safer than smoking cigarettes; Swedish Match's argument is effectively one of harm reduction, suggesting that the lower level of nicotine in snus provides a relatively safer experience for those who choose to use a tobacco product.
The committee agreed, though, against doing away with Swedish Match's warning label, saying the claims the company put forward do not prove that the product does not pose any health risks.
The FDA does not necessarily have to adopt the advisory committee's findings, but it will use them as a recommendation. Sarah Eberspacher
Starting next year, employees at the second-largest tobacco company in the United States won't be able to smoke inside their offices, conference rooms, hallways, or elevators.
Reynolds American Inc. made the announcement on Wednesday, but all isn't lost for smokers; the new rule won't go into effect until an indoor smoking area is built. Lighting up inside cafeterias and fitness centers and on factory floors is already banned.
"We believe it's the right thing to do and the right time to do it because updating our tobacco use policies will better accommodate both non-smokers and smokers who work in and visit our facilities," spokesman David Howard told The Associated Press. "We're just better aligning our tobacco use policies with the realities of what you’re seeing in society today."
About 18 percent of Reynolds' 5,200 employees smoke, which is in line with the smoking rate of U.S. adults. Catherine Garcia