Hemp Farms Face Challenges on Both Sides of the Law

Mixed messages from police, plus thieves seeking free weed

Industrial hemp
Distinguishing between hemp and pot can be a challenge for many.
Aleks/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / December 4, 2019 7:01 am

The legalization of hemp has been in the works for a long time, and is finally seeing fruition. Given the rise in popularity of CBD (in a recent poll, 14 percent of Americans said they use CBD) and the growing (no pun intended) number of products made using hemp in the United States, it’s a good time to be a hemp farmer. At least it should be: a newly-legal product, plenty of demand — what could possibly go wrong?

At The New York Times, Sarah Maslin Nir explored the unexpected problem hemp farmers face. To begin with, there’s the matter of how hemp and pot aren’t exactly easily distinguishable — meaning that a number of police officers have assumed farmers loading their wares into a car or truck were engaged in illegal activities, and acted accordingly. 

This isn’t a problem limited to the daily lives of farmers; as CBD becomes more widely-used, some drug tests are turning out positive results for people who consumed nothing more potent than a CBD gummy. Technology isn’t the only avenue that’s coming up short in its ability to distinguish between CBD and pot. Drug-sniffing dogs are also finding it nearly impossible to delineate the two. It’s not difficult to see the number of problems that this might cause. 

The Times article also adds one other disquieting aspect of contemporary society: the penchant for police departments to trumpet large drug busts on social media. This includes a post from the NYPD on November 5 of this year, where they bragged about confiscating “106 pounds of marijuana that was destined for our city streets.” 

Unfortunately for the NYPD, those 106 pounds were not actually marijuana. They were CBD — and, according to Nir’s article, the charges against the man arrested — who was picking them up for his brother’s CBD company — will be dropped. 

The Times article also notes that hemp is frequently stolen from farms by thieves believing they’re pilfering a previously-untapped source of pot. Some have gone on to sell it, believing it to be a new strain. We can only imagine the sellers encountered numerous disappointed customers.

Nir also notes that the boundaries between the two can blur even more depending on the weather conditions, citing: “a quirk in the chemistry of hemp plants that can cause them to overproduce THC when stressed by things like a lack of irrigation.”

The Times article isn’t the first to illustrate this confusion, and it’s unlikely to be the last — at least not until some future point when both hemp and pot are legal. Living through changing times can be confusing — and these particular dilemmas illustrate that brilliantly.

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