A joint investigation among a California Sheriff’s Office, the FBI, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is shining new light on a potential boon for the Golden State’s black market marijuana industry: a hemp disguise.
According to a post on the Kern County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, law enforcement officers 100 miles outside of Los Angeles recently destroyed a 10 million plant pot grow worth an estimated $1 billion in unregulated sales. The twist? The farm had been operating in full public view of cops and passersby, but posted signs and made claims that the plants were low-THC hemp, and not the full strength cannabis plants that they actually were.
“These illicit marijuana gardens were grown under the guise of legitimate hemp production,” the Facebook post announcing the bust detailed. “Preliminary testing showed the levels of THC in these fields were well over the legal limit for industrial hemp production and were, in fact, cannabis.”
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Since hemp production was legalized nationwide last year, the industrial crop has exploded in popularity with farmers across the country. So many cultivators are raising hemp fields that opportunistic pot smokers have even ignored warning signs and stolen truckloads of plants under the assumption that it was full strength weed.
But in Kern County, the 459 acres of supposed hemp were not actually hemp after all. And once the joint team of law enforcement officers were able to confirm the presence of highly concentrated THC, they brought in industrial farm equipment to start leveling the fields. By the time job was over, more than 10 million plants had been trampled.
No arrests have been announced in the hemp field cover-up, but the Kern County Sheriff’s Office said that an investigation is ongoing.
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