As they grow, marijuana and hemp look pretty darn similar. From the broad fan leaves to the buds that develop during flowering, it is often hard to tell the difference between full-strength bud and its CBD-rich hemp cousin. And for a new wave of ambitious hemp farmers across the country, those similarities have spurred a new harvest-season problem: theft.
According to reports from New York’s Wayne County Times and WHAM and local New Mexico public radio station KRQE, outdoor hemp farmers across the US have seen misinformed robbers repeatedly come into their fields to steal plants under the assumption that they are THC-laden weed, and not non-intoxicating hemp.
“You could smoke a telephone pole of this and it wouldn’t get you high,” Empire State hemp farmer Dale Weed (his real name) told the Wayne Times.
Since harvest season started last month, though, Dale Weed has reported a number of thefts at his upstate farm, with the most recent instance leading to the arrest of a 21-year-old and 19-year-old who pulled down 30 plants while illegally trespassing on the property.
"You feel violated that people come here and steal from you when you’re trying to help a new industry get started that can help a lot of people," Weed said. "It’s alarming, the fact with no theft in 17 years, and now I’m being robbed every night.”
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In New Mexico, a similar story played out in Chaves County this week, when sheriffs stopped a truck packed to the brim with stolen plants taken from a nearby hemp farm.
And until the cannabis-consuming public and scientific researchers are more knowledgeable about the differences, farmers across the country are bolstering up security measures. For example, they’re adding new signage, spending more time in the field, and putting local law enforcement on speed dial.
"We’ve been trying to hire employees and outside people,” Weed said about his New York hemp farm. “My family has spent quite a few nights here watching the property. I’ve spent nights here where I’m sleep deprived. It’s a big problem for us."
Like cannabis, outdoor hemp is harvested once a year and typically reaches full maturity during the month of October.
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