Last week, the Jasper Police Department in Missouri made headlines with a supposedly groundbreaking marijuana bust that was said to be valued at around $100,000. The department took to Facebook to express their satisfaction with the operation, which required the efforts of ten police officers, sheriff’s deputies, and even a National Guard helicopter for surveillance. However, before the post was taken down, a local publication, the Riverfront Times, managed to capture some screenshots and shed light on the police department’s celebration.
The Jasper Police Department’s now-deleted post boasted about the successful collaboration and the challenging conditions they faced during the operation. The post read, “What a great team effort today. It was hot and humid, and not easy getting these plants. We ALL got in the thick of things and got it done.” The Riverfront Times, in summarizing the post’s content, noted that the department had calculated a conservative estimate that the nearly 290 plants seized would have produced a minimum of 63 pounds of marijuana, with a street value of approximately $100,000.
However, commenters were quick to point out a major error in the officers’ triumph. They claimed that the police had actually confiscated hemp, not cannabis. Unlike marijuana, hemp does not have psychoactive properties and can be used to create various products, including clothing, soap, paper, sails, rope, fuel, and concrete (known as “hempcrete”). Hemp is known for its durability and sustainability.
According to the Times, one blunt comment stated, “That’s hemp.” Unfortunately, the majority of the comments are not available as the original post has been deleted. Mitch Meyers from BeLeaf, one of Missouri’s licensed hemp growers for certain medicinal purposes, supported this claim, saying, “Sure looks like hemp to me.”
The Times sent images of the seized plants to several experts and sought their opinions. John Payne, the Executive Director of Show-Me Cannabis, stated that the plants appeared to be wild hemp due to their height and lack of buds. This suggested that no one was actively cultivating them, meaning that their street value would be close to nothing.
Other commenters joined in, and as the post accumulated hundreds of comments, some even went as far as to ridicule the police for confiscating the raw material of natural fiber rope. Faced with mounting criticism, the Jasper Police removed the post on Wednesday morning.
However, there remains uncertainty regarding whether the plants were indeed hemp or cannabis. Dr. Jason Strotheide, the founder of licensed hemp grower Noah’s Arc Foundation, explained that it is nearly impossible to distinguish between hemp and marijuana until late in the flowering stage.
Nevertheless, Rusty Rives, the police chief of the Lamar Police Department and a participant in the raid, confidently stuck by the claim that the plants were marijuana. “I’m just looking at the picture,” he asserted, “but they look like marijuana plants to me.”
Ironically, the distinction between hemp and cannabis becomes insignificant since both are illegal in Missouri, despite nationwide efforts to legalize both marijuana and the hemp plant.
The Times faced difficulty when attempting to obtain comments from other officials involved in the operation. However, by last Thursday, Jasper police chief Chad Karr responded, defending the Facebook post. Karr explained that the goal was never to boast about a marijuana bust but to serve notice to a suspected meth dealer operating in the area. He mentioned that the post reached a much larger audience and resulted in over 1,000 comments, some of which were abusive.
Regarding the estimation of a $100,000 value, Karr stated that he tried to provide a conservative estimate. Although he admitted that he lacked expertise in marijuana and had no interest in gaining knowledge about it, he suggested that the plants were not growing naturally without human involvement. Trails leading out to the field where the plants were confiscated indicated some form of cultivation.
Karr emphasized that cannabis was not a significant concern for him. “I think the misconception is we go to work to bust potheads,” he clarified. “I personally do not. I know what the problem is – it’s opiates and methamphetamine.”
Hopefully, Karr’s sentiment will spread among law enforcement personnel who often face criticism when they proudly announce cannabis busts on social media. At present, it seems that no charges have been filed regarding the seized plants.