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A gang of robbers likely thought they pulled off the heist of the year when they broke into a Colorado greenhouse and stole nearly 200 cannabis plants.
These prospective pot thieves may have been unaware that there are two kinds of cannabis: Hemp, a non-psychoactive plant generally harvested to make CBD; and its notorious cousin marijuana, which is chock full of THC. But if the burglars check the local news this week, they will discover that they just stole hundreds of plants that won't get a single person stoned.
Zephaniah Lee, owner of Evergrow Harvest, a licensed industrial hemp facility in Bayfield, Colorado, arrived at work last week to find his greenhouse had been robbed. Several doors showed signs of forced entry, and Lee found a trail of discarded hemp plants leading to an outdoor area where a truck and trailer had been parked.
“The way they went after the plants that were hanging makes me believe they thought they were marijuana plants and not industrial hemp plants,” said Lee to The Durango Herald.
These plants, which were used strictly for hemp seed production, are worth around $300,000 on the wholesale market. But that means nothing to burglars who stole these plants, who will likely be forced to pawn them off to someone who can't tell the difference between hemp and pot.
To be fair, it's nearly impossible to tell the difference between hemp and marijuana just by visual inspection alone. Since hemp was nationally legalized in late 2018, hemp farms all across the country have taken extra measures to defend themselves against burglars who confuse weed for hemp.
Cops are just as confused by this distinction as criminals, and this has caused even more issues in states where hemp is legal but marijuana is still prohibited. Over the past couple of years, cops in New York and Texas have publicly bragged about seizing massive quantities of smuggled weed – only to later learn that they actually snagged perfectly legal hemp shipments.
Lee told the Herald that the stolen plants only make up a small portion of his harvest, so the theft is “not detrimental to our project.” Even so, the owner is offering an $8,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of his plants or the thieves’ arrest.