Hemp plant farmers across the globe struggle with rampant theft

Published Oct 31, 2019 01:00 p.m. ET
iStock / nikoendres

It wasn’t long ago that we covered the issue of outdoor cannabis plants going missing in Canada, where marijuana legalization has been widely accepted resulting in thousands of people growing plants outdoors legally. Thieves watched closely as the marijuana plants came to full maturity, trying to time their efforts just right so that they can make away with a good quality product right before the owners would be planning to harvest. While the issue remains difficult to manage, there is at least a known motive behind these thefts, which is typically financial gain or a free high.

What is hemp?

Hemp plant farmers, unlike large scale cannabis producers, cultivate outdoors, beginning with fresh hemp seeds in the spring, to grow thousands of pounds of product which is generally processed into one of many unique industrial or food products. Cannabis and hemp are highly associated due to their genetic background, but a hemp plant will rarely ever produce the psychoactive element that makes weed worth so much to recreational consumers, leaving farmers wondering why their crops remain under attack from the general public.

Hemp plant farmer is now considered a dangerous job position

Since a hemp plant is worth mere pennies on the market, it is hard to see why crops are walking away in amounts that add up to acres so quickly. Other cultivators of a more exotic plant species like sunflowers, deal with massive levels of damage every single year from curious and entranced passersby that cannot resist the photo opportunity, which often results in broken branches and flower heads. This loss can add up quite quickly, but no one has experienced it quite the same way as hemp plant farmers.

Just this past summer alone, there have been reports from all over Canada where hemp plant cultivators and their families have felt at risk. Generally, when you own a property like a farm in the country and plant a massive crop of anything, you aren’t going to expect too many folks to be pulling up in pick-ups, sometimes even armed, ready to clear out giant sections of a field, but it happened and one hemp farmer even felt the need to turn the tables on the criminals, by holding them at gunpoint until the authorities arrived to take over.

Why are they stealing hemp plants if they aren’t worth anything?

Hemp plant products make cultivation of such large crops profitable, but it’s worth less than half the cost of recreational cannabis on the black market, and since hemp plants don’t produce a lot of buds, especially in the case of industrial strains bred for their fibers, it would take much longer to get a substantial amount of hemp flowers.

Some people enjoy smoking hemp plant buds for the CBD content, and many might be tempted to grab a flower or two for making homemade products like CBD oil or balms, but these rare individuals are not believed to be the problem. With some farmers who have run into thieves that have admitted to being paid and hired for the illegal theft, it points towards a darker intention full of deceit.

Most hemp plant thieves are believed to be travelers that aren’t local, who happen upon what looks to be a massive crop of cannabis plants and simply resist, but what is much more likely is that black market dealers are stealing the product to either sell to unsuspecting customers who might not be able to visually tell the difference, or to add as a filler in pre-rolls, grinds and even bagged bud flowers to add extra weight and pull in more money; Neither of which is a motive that cultivators or law enforcement officials have any sympathy for.

Stealing hemp is against the law

Stealing a hemp plant is no different than taking anything else that isn’t rightfully yours, and this offence is one that can be punishable through fines, charges, a criminal record, and even jail time. So, if you ever do happen to drive by a bustling hemp plant field and feel tempted, remember that it’s not worth it, and doing so is hurting a brand-new industry that is just trying to get established as mainstream. Incidents like this will only encourage the hesitation that other kinds of farmers have, surrounding the idea of switching to this environmentally friendly crop.

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