A recent example was in Columbia County, Georgia; where a farmer interrupted a theft from his legally grown and licensed industrial hemp plants.
“The suspects admitted to stealing the hemp flower on two occasions, believing that the plants were illegal marijuana plants,” stated Columbia County Sheriff’s Office. “The suspects allowed investigators to recover approximately 10 pounds of stolen hemp flower. The approximate value of the hemp flower is $1,000.”
Also recently, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food &Markets (VAAFM) was notified of a hemp crop theft that occurred in Moretown. 50 hemp plants were cut down and removed, with around 500 pounds of biomass stolen. This represented the grower’s entire crop and the theft occurred even though signage was visible at the field indicating that the crop was just hemp.
Last year was a shocker for hemp theft in the USA and it’s not clear if this year has any better given increasing awareness and education around the fact that hemp and marijuana are not the same thing. Hemp’s levels of THC, the intoxicating cannabinoid, are so low it has zero recreational value. The number of media reports this year does seem to be lower even though hemp cultivation is becoming more prevalent; so perhaps the message is getting through – but the season isn’t over yet.
As we’ve previously mentioned, farmers face enough challenges with growing and selling the crop without having to worry about thieves. And given the USA’s comparatively lax approach to gun control, the stakes for both thieves and farmers alike are much higher than in some other countries.
Even in Australia the theft of hemp has been a problem – a couple of growers in South Australia stated last year the crop wouldn’t be reappearing on their farm as a result of “relentless” interference from the public.
While it’s unlikely would-be thieves in Australia would face an angry farmer with a military-style semi-automatic assault rifle; the legal risks are greater if caught as unlicensed possession of industrial hemp plants in this country attracts far harsher penalties.