Many people may not be aware that pinching an industrial hemp plant can result in charges not only relating to theft in some countries.
Fields of industrial hemp can prove to be too much of a temptation for the ill-informed and curious; particularly in countries where the crop is reappearing after being banned for decades.
Some see the crops and believe they’ve stumbled on to a marijuana bonanza – but industrial hemp and marijuana are quite different plants; not only in the way they look and are grown, but also their chemical makeup. Industrial hemp has very little of the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In fact, you could smoke it until the cows came home and emerge from the experience without a buzz, but perhaps with a monster headache.
Still, this doesn’t appear to deter some who don’t stop and question why all this “marijuana” they find is growing out in the open with comparatively little in the way of security. Other theft may be focused on extracting non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD), which some hemp strains can be high in. Some steal it just to show their friends.
Even given the lack of THC, cultivating hemp is still tightly controlled in some countries, including Australia. There are potentially huge penalties for cultivating, manufacturing or even possessing plant material without a licence or in breach of one, aside from possessing finished hemp or hemp seed products.
This means by pilfering a few plants from a licensed grower, a person may not only be charged with theft if caught, but also face action in relation to laws that govern the industrial hemp sector.
For example, in South Australia, not complying with industrial hemp legislation has a maximum penalty of $15,000 and may also include up to 12 months imprisonment. That’s far heftier than being busted for growing a single marijuana plant at home (expiation of $300). Simple marijuana offences in South Australia don’t result in court prosecution or a criminal record.
While it’s unlikely someone pinching a few hemp plants would be whacked with the maximum possible penalty and whether they would be even prosecuted under those laws isn’t clear, they do open themselves up to a potentially complicated legal situation if caught. The same applies to growing industrial hemp from seed – or even possessing viable seed.
The moral of the story is that hemp is very interesting to look at and take pictures of – but hands off. Also, until such time that law catches up to common sense wherever you live; don’t try growing it at home.