Industrial Hemp Theft Gets Violent

Industrial hemp theft
Image: Valyxyz

Theft of industrial hemp plants in the USA appears to be on the increase, and in one recent incident guns were reportedly involved.

The Leaf Chronicle reports a farmer in Indian Mound, Tennessee gave chase to a group of heavily armed men that had been pilfering his plants – and was shot at by the offenders in the process. Farmer Tracy Lehman said the group appeared to be well organised and carried assault-style rifles and pistols.

Later that same day, Mr. Lehman discovered another thief stealing industrial hemp plants from his farm. That offender, who was also chased by Mr. Lehman, was unarmed and apprehended by the Stewart County Sheriff’s Office.

As more farmers across the USA grow the crop, we’ve been noticing more frequent reports of industrial hemp theft; other recent incidents being here, here and here.

Why Steal Industrial Hemp?

Industrial hemp is very low in THC, the intoxicating compound in cannabis. There is absolutely no recreational value in smoking the stuff and it’s really not viable to extract THC from hemp via other means. Farmers will often display signs to alert potential thieves the plants are just hemp. However, because the plant looks and smells the same as marijuana when dried, perhaps the intention is to sell it, passing it of as such.

Another potential reason is while industrial hemp may be low in THC, some strains are high in cannabidiol (CBD), a valuable compound that is increasingly being used to treat a variety of health conditions. But extracting cannabidiol isn’t a simple task and the thief would need to be aware what strain is growing. Some strains contain little CBD and are primarily grown for food (hempseed) or fiber.

Other reasons it may be the target of thieves: they are just plain stupid and/or cannot read, and/or cannot tell industrial hemp from marijuana – which look quite different.

Regardless of the motive, the impact on farmers is considerable – not just in terms of losing plants, but also on their state of mind as the result of having to be constantly vigilant. It’s not as if farmers don’t have enough to contend with as is without the additional worry, cost and danger associated with boosting security.

Throw guns into the mix and a tragedy is bound to happen.

As we reported recently, stealing industrial hemp can be a serious offence – those pinching plants may not just be charged with trespass and theft if caught, but also face action under laws that govern the industrial hemp sector.