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Farmers say they are targeted by thieves who want to steal marijuana plants, as well as police who want to make a drug bust.

Cops And Criminals Confused By Difference Between Cannabis, Hemp

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For legal hemp farmers, it’s just as important to protect themselves against police as it is to protect themselves against thieves. One is as likely as the other to mistake a field of hemp for a field of cannabis.

Farmers recently told the New York Times that they are taking unusual measures to let both police and thieves know that hemp — which the U.S. Congress made legal across the country in 2018 — is not the same as marijuana. Those measures include a sign posted by a farmer near Salem, N.Y., reading: “Warning! No trespassing. Industrial hemp. Not marijuana, no THC. Will not get you high.”

RELATED: Illinois Officials Clash Over Marijuana Legalization, Social Justice

The Issues For Farmers Are Another Facet Of An Ongoing Problem

Due to confusion between hemp and cannabis, many hemp farmers find themselves needing to campaign to law enforcement that they’re growing legal plants. It’s an issue that has surfaced in recent months.

For example, prosecutors in Florida — both in the panhandle and South Florida — issued statements this past summer asking police to no longer pursue marijuana possession cases. Why? Because they’ve already seen cases where hemp is confused with marijuana, even the smell of the plants.

Prosecutors in Texas have taken similar steps. In both states, officials acknowledged that there is no reliable field test to determine the difference between hemp and marijuana.

More recently, police in New York City seized a shipment of hemp that they thought was cannabis. They took photos of themselves with the hemp, thinking they had made a big drug bust. The man who paid $17,500 for the legal hemp is concerned the police action could run him out of business. He had yet to get his hemp back by mid-December, and even announced plans to sue the city.

RELATED: How The Black Market Is Threatening The Legal Cannabis Market

Here’s The Difference Between Hemp And Marijuana

Hemp is not a separate plant from cannabis. Here’s how it works.

Cannabis has three major species: sativa, indica and ruderalis. Hemp is a strain of sativa. The difference between hemp and other strains is that it contains only small trace amounts of THC. In many cases, it contains none.

In order to get classified as hemp under federal law, the plant must have 0.3 percent or less of THC, the chemical ingredient in marijuana that causes the high. Any level over that makes the plant illegal under federal law. This is why CBD products that hit the shelves of big national chain stores in 2019 are derived from hemp.

That’s noted on product packaging, but that doesn’t help confused police and thieves looking at the plants while they are still planted in a field.

To deal with thieves, farmers are going to great lenghts to protect their crop. During the harvest season, some have taken to spending the night in fields with a loaded weapon, hiding remote surveillance cameras among the plants and getting dogs who bark at any noise at night, according to the Times.

As for the police, there’s not much farmers can do beyond putting up signs. Even drug-sniffing dogs can’t tell the difference between hemp and marijuana plants, Erica Stark, executive director of the National Hemp Association, told the Times, adding, “it’s a mess,” with how things are presently being handled.

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