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10 Millions of Cannabis Plants Worth $1 billion Seized and Destroyed in Californian “Hemp Fields”

Kern County authorities seized an estimated 10 million marijuana plants from fields under the guise of hemp production sites in Arvin.

On October 25, law enforcement descended on the fields whose growers had claimed to be growing non-psychoactive hemp. They were, in fact, raising marijuana plants that clocked in at over the 0.3 percent THC content allowed under California law.

Industrial hemp production is legal in Kern County as long as the THC levels comply with the 0.3 percent limit, according to the sheriff’s office. The commercial sale of hemp or cannabis that exceeds that threshold is illegal.

“Preliminary testing showed the levels of THC in these fields were well over the legal limit for industrial hemp production and were in fact cannabis,” announced the Kern County Sheriff’s Office in a Facebook post. “The investigation is ongoing.”

The announcement did not specify how the farmers came to be growing the unlicensed cannabis. But if they were confused over the THC content of their own product, they wouldn’t be the first in the country to employ the excuse. In February, Idaho state police confiscated 6,701 pounds of marijuana they discovered in the truck of a Colorado company at a weigh station.

No arrests were made, and authorities haven’t determined whether they’ll seek charges, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office said. The investigation remains ongoing.

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Industrial hemp is a variety of cannabis sativa plant that has much lower levels of the psychoactive chemical THC than are found in marijuana. Industrial hemp grown for commercial sale must, by law, contain no more than 0.3% THC, though there’s an exemption for hemp grown for research purposes, the Sheriff’s Office said. Hemp is traditionally used to make rope, strong fabrics, paper, construction materials, cosmetics and food products, according to the USDA. More recently it has been touted for producing cannabidiol, or CBD, the focus of new cannabis research that doesn’t cause the “high” associated with marijuana.

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