A National Guard helicopter hovered overhead as teams from four different Missouri police and sheriffs’ departments bushwhacked through a field of tall green plants. They slashed through the woods to discover what they called “one of the largest marijuana grow seizures in the area.”
The raiders chopped down the plants and loaded them into a landscaping trailer pulled by a huge pickup truck. They then proceeded to snap hundreds of pictures of themselves and their prize, which they then posted to the Jasper Police Department’s Facebook page.
Shortly after posting their proud-as-hell photos, Facebook comments started pouring in. Among the best: “That’s hemp.”
Others joined in until at least a thousand comments lined the page, most mocking congratulations to the elite squad for having raided and hacked down a field of what one commenter described as “raw material of natural fiber rope.”
The Jasper police quickly pulled the post when they realized their guys had come face-to-face with a field of hemp that they thought was cannabis.
Legally, it really doesn’t matter. Growing hemp is still against the law in Missouri, unless you’re one of the two entities licensed to grow industrial hemp under the Industrial Hemp Farming Act.
“It’s still just as illegal,” says Show-Me Cannabis Chairman Dan Viets, a prominent criminal defense attorney with years of experience handling marijuana cases. “It doesn’t matter if you call it hemp or marijuana.”
While the state draws no legal distinction between hemp and marijuana, if you’re in law enforcement, it might be wise to know the difference. Scores of Missouri folks certainly did when they saw their giddy cops on Facebook who were doing the math about the hemp’s “street value.”
They estimated that they’d just destroyed at least $100,000 worth of weed. But obviously, since this was wild hemp that wouldn’t actually get anyone high, the plants destroyed by the excited cops didn’t actually have any real street value.
“These look to me like wild hemp plants, because they are tall and without buds, which probably means that no one was actively cultivating them,” said John Payne, executive director of Show-Me Cannabis.
In any case, the boys had fun showing off their slash-and-burn techniques.
“What a great team effort today,” the now-deleted Facebook post said. “It was hot and humid and not easy getting these plants. We ALL got in the thick of things and got it done.”
So far, no one has been charged with letting their unattended hemp crop go wild. Viets said the important question regarding a criminal defense is whether anyone was actually cultivating the plants.
If they were just growing wild, there’s obviously no crime. Later, Jasper police Chief Chad Karr told the Riverfront Times that the Facebook post wasn’t meant to brag about a bunch of pot plants, but rather to serve notice to a suspected meth dealer operating in the area. As far as marijuana, the police chief said, he really doesn’t care if people use it.