California Authorities Seize $1B Worth of Hemp Containing THC

According to a joint effort between The Kern County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 11 hemp fields in Kern County, California were determined to be considered cannabis based on THC content. Authorities seized a total of about 100 million plants worth up to $1 billion.

Police say they responded to a tip that hemp fields in the area were growing cannabis instead of hemp. The sample with the highest THC content tested at around seven percent THC. On Oct. 25, KCSO served search warrants. The 11 hemp fields amounted to 459 acres of total land. All farms were located in Arvin, California.

“These illicit marijuana gardens were grown under the guise of legitimate hemp production,” KCSO said in a news release. “The Food and Agricultural Code and Health and Safety Code define industrial hemp has containing less than 0.3% THC content. The research exemption allows for cultivators to grow and possess hemp/cannabis that is over 0.3% THC content, ‘if that cultivation or possession contributes to the development of types of industrial hemp that will comply with the three-tenths of 1 percent THC limit established in this division.”

According to police estimates, the teams confiscated about 10 million cannabis plants total, which was valued at over $1 billion on the black market.

According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture website, hemp is defined as “a crop that is limited to types of the plant Cannabis sativa L. having no more than three-tenths of 1 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) contained in the dried flowering tops, whether growing or not; the seeds of the plant; the resin extracted from any part of the plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant, its seeds or resin produced therefrom.”  Under the California Industrial Hemp Program, some operations can be licensed thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, which opened the doors to industrial hemp operations.

The eradication efforts will likely amount to a big blow to the hemp industry in Kern County as growers scramble to recoup their losses.

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