Last week, officers from Missouri’s Jasper Police Department celebrated a marijuana bust they deemed worth roughly $100,000. In a now-deleted Facebook post, they disclosed their satisfaction with their operation, which took ten cops and sheriff’s deputies and a National Guard helicopter to conduct.
As the Riverfront Times noted (grabbing screenshots before the post was taken down):
“’What a great team effort today,’ the Jasper department’s now-deleted post read. ‘It was hot and humid and not easy getting these plants. We ALL got in the thick of things and got it done.’“
The Times summarized the post’s sentiment:
“In a curious bit of show-your-work math, the department calculated the nearly 290 plants seized would have produced — “on the low side” — 63 pounds of marijuana with a “street value” of roughly $100,000.”
But commenters were quick to point out an apparent flaw in the officers’ bust: it wasn’t cannabis they had seized, but hemp, they said. You can’t get high from smoking hemp, and the material can be used to create anything from clothing, soap, paper to sails, rope, fuel, and concrete, called “hempcrete.” It is both durable and sustainable.
“That’s hemp,” one comment bluntly said, according to the Times, though the rest of the comments are not available to view because the original post has been removed. One of Missouri’s two entities allowed to grow hemp for certain medicinal purposes, Mitch Meyers of BeLeaf, said, “Sure looks like hemp to me.”
“These look to me like wild hemp plants, because they are tall and without buds,” Show-Me Cannabis Executive Director John Payne told the Times, which sent images of the confiscated plants to several experts. “That probably means that no one was actively cultivating them. If that’s the case, the street value of those plants is next to nothing.”
Many comments echoed similar sentiments, “as the post racked up hundreds of comments, among them mocking congratulations to cops for confiscating the raw material of natural fiber rope,” the Times reported.“Jasper Police, who cover an area about twenty miles northeast of Joplin, pulled the post on Wednesday morning.”
However, there is still some doubt as to whether the plants were hemp or cannabis. Dr. Jason Strotheide, founder of licensed hemp grower Noah’s Arc Foundation, said it is “nearly impossible to tell the difference between hemp and marijuana until late in flower.“
Rusty Rives, police chief of the Lamar Police Department, which participated in raid stuck by the claim that it was weed. “I’m just looking at the picture,” he said. “but they look like marijuana plants to me.”
It doesn’t matter either way. Both are illegal in the state of Missouri despite nationwide efforts to legalize both marijuana and the hemp plant.
The Times had difficulty obtaining comment other officials involved, but by last Thursday, Jasper police chief Chad Karr responded, defending the Facebook post.
“The goal, Karr says, was never to brag about a bunch of pot plants, but rather to serve notice to a suspected meth dealer operating in the area.” But the post reached many more people, accruing over 1,000 comments, Karr said, some of which were “abusive.”
As far as the “$100,000” estimation, “Karr says he tried to estimate conservatively. He admits he’s no expert when it comes to marijuana and doesn’t care to be.” However, he suggested the plants were not growing on their own, without human cultivation, because there were trails leading out to the field where they were confiscated.
Nevertheless, he claims cannabis is not an issue for him.
“I think the misconception is we go to work to bust pot heads,” he said. “I personally do not. I know what the problem is — it’s opiates and methamphetamine.”
Hopefully, his sentiment will continue to grow among law enforcement, who are increasingly trolled when they boast of cannabis busts on social media. The Times reports that for now, it doesn’t appear any charges have been filed over the plants.