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Farmer Finds Marijuana in Corn Field

Farmer Finds Marijuana in Corn Field

Someone swapped a farmer’s corn for 150 marijuana plants

Wikimedia/Gilles San Martin

A farmer was just trying to grow some delicious corn, but someone replaced his plants with marijuana.

A Pennsylvania farmer found an unexpected bonus when he was surveying his corn fields this week and discovered a sizable collection of marijuana plants growing in the middle of his corn.

According to NBC, the corn farmer says he did not plant the special plants, he just stumbled upon them while spraying his corn. The marijuana had previously escaped his notice because it was hidden among weeds and corn, and he says he just never saw them until now, even though there were 150 plants growing in the middle of the field.

The farmer alerted police to his find, and police say he will not be charged with anything. It seems most likely that the pot growers snuck into the field at some point, pulled out a bunch of the corn plants in the middle of the field, and planted 150 marijuana plants in their place.

The marijuana plants were between 12 and 18 inches high, and police said that full-grown plants could generate between $500 and $600 worth of marijuana per plant. Nobody will be profiting from these plants, however, as police say they’re just going to be destroyed. The police say they’ll charge whoever planted the marijuana, on the off chance that they are able to figure out who was responsible.

7 Insane Things Farmers Have Accidentally Found in Fields

In 2013, North Dakota farmer Steve Jensen smelled crude oil for a few days before figuring out why. Then, while harvesting wheat, he noticed black oil bubbling out of the ground. More investigation revealed that nearby Tesoro Corp had suffered a break in one of their pipelines, and the oil had spread over an area about equal to seven football fields. It cost about $4 million, but the leak was eventually repaired.

Mexican marijuana farmers see profits tumble as U.S. loosens laws

He started growing marijuana as a teenager and for four decades earned a modest living from his tiny plot tucked at the base of these rugged mountains of western Mexico.

He proudly shows off his illegal plants, waist-high and fragrant, strategically hidden from view by rows of corn and nearly ready to be harvested.

“I’ve always liked this business, producing marijuana,” the 50-year-old farmer said wistfully. He had decided that this season’s crop would be his last.

The reason: free-market economics.

The loosening of marijuana laws across much of the United States has increased competition from growers north of the border, apparently enough to drive down prices paid to Mexican farmers. Small-scale growers here in the state of Sinaloa, one of the country’s biggest production areas, said that over the last four years the amount they receive per kilogram has fallen from $100 to $30.

The price decline appears to have led to reduced marijuana production in Mexico and a drop in trafficking to the U.S., according to officials on both sides of the border and available data.

People don’t want to abandon their illicit crops, but more and more they are realizing that it is no longer good business.

Juan Guerra, the state’s agriculture secretary

“People don’t want to abandon their illicit crops, but more and more they are realizing that it is no longer good business,” said Juan Guerra, the state’s agriculture secretary.

For decades, the U.S. and Mexican governments looked for ways to reduce marijuana cultivation. They paid farmers to grow legal crops or periodically sent Mexican soldiers to seek out and eradicate drug fields.

But those efforts failed, because marijuana was still more profitable than the alternatives.

As recently as 2008, Mexico was providing as much as two-thirds of the marijuana consumed in the U.S. each year, said Beau Kilmer, co-director of the Drug Policy Research Center at the Rand Corp. think tank.

U.S. growers, however, have been spurred on by the increasing number of states that have lifted restrictions on the drug.

In 1996, California, the nation’s biggest producer, became the first state to legalize it for medical purposes. Twenty-two states have followed suit over the last two decades. Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington have also allowed cultivation and sale for recreational use.

Though federal law still criminalizes production and possession, the U.S. Justice Department has backed off its enforcement efforts when they clash with state law.

The relaxed legal environment has upended the old business model.

“Changes on the other side of the border are making marijuana less profitable for organizations like the Cartel de Sinaloa,” said Antonio Mazzitelli, the representative in Mexico for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Although Mexico remains a major supplier of marijuana to the U.S., its market share is thought to have declined significantly. Alejandro Hope, a security and drug analyst in Mexico City, estimated that Mexican marijuana now accounts for less than a third of the total consumed in the U.S.

There is little reliable data on marijuana production in Mexico. But two key measures — how much is destroyed in the fields and how much is intercepted at the U.S. border — strongly suggest it has been in decline.

The Mexican government is on pace to eradicate about 12,000 acres this year, down from more than 44,000 in 2010, according to the Mexican attorney general’s office.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized about 1,085 tons of marijuana at the border in 2014. In the previous four years, that figure hovered around 1,500 tons. Seizures are thought to represent a tiny fraction of the amount that gets successfully imported.

In addition, the number of U.S. arrests by federal agents involving foreign-grown marijuana dropped from 4,519 in 2010 to 2,367 in 2014, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The number involving domestically produced marijuana held relatively steady over that time with an average of 1,536 arrests per year.

U.S. and Mexican growers compete not only on price but also on quality. Legalization has expanded the market for more expensive specialty strains, which are more powerful than standard Mexican product because of a higher concentration of THC, the ingredient that delivers the high.

“Mexican marijuana is deemed lowest on the totem pole and very few people who consider themselves aficionados or connoisseurs would admit to smoking it,” said Daniel Vinkovetsky, who writes under the name Danny Danko for High Times magazine. “It’s typically brown, pressed tightly together for transport, and full of seeds.”

“Access to better quality American cannabis has led many to turn their backs on imports from Mexico and beyond,” he said.

Ethan Nadelmann, who runs Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit based in New York that promotes decriminalization of drugs, said he expects that Mexican exports of marijuana will continue to fall as legal cannabis proliferates. “More and more, the U.S. is going to grow marijuana here,” he said.

From 2013 to 2014, the legal market grew from $1.5 billion to $2.7 billion, according to a report this year from the ArcView Group, a cannabis industry investment and research firm based in Oakland. Illegal sales are thought to be many times that.

The shifting market has forced small-scale marijuana farmers in Mexico to look for ways to supplement their incomes.

In remote Sinaloa, a 47-year-old farmer named Emilio tends four marijuana plots with his sons. He inherited the business from his father. Their municipality, Badiraguato, is famous for being the birthplace of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the world’s most-wanted drug lord and head of the powerful Sinaloa cartel.

But there is little sign of the cartel’s wealth in their village, official population 1,000, a two-hour drive from the main town square on a crumbling mountain road. Emilio never finished primary school and doesn’t know how to read or write. His house has dirt floors. Like the other farmers interviewed for this story, he spoke on condition that his full name not be published.

One of his neighbors, 55-year-old Efrain, said he stopped cultivating marijuana a few years ago and now supports his family as a day laborer. The middlemen who used to purchase his crop barely come around anymore.

“If someone comes to buy it here, they want it really cheap,” he said.

But Emilio said he can’t afford to give up on marijuana.

“Even though it’s not really considered good business anymore here, there’s nothing else to do,” he said.

His wife and daughter work occasional shifts at a greenhouse where tomatoes are grown for commercial sale — part of a government project to give families a chance to leave the drug business. The work, sporadic and seasonal, pays about $12 a day.

Guerra, the Sinaloa agriculture secretary, said the government has a responsibility to provide more as legalization sweeps the U.S.

The Mexican drug cartels are already adapting.

For one, they are moving to compete in the high-end marijuana market, according to the 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment produced by the DEA. “Law enforcement reporting indicates that Mexican cartels are attempting to produce higher-quality marijuana to keep up with U.S. demand for high-quality marijuana,” it said.

In one of the more telling signs of how legalization has transformed the industry, the DEA has found instances of high-grade marijuana being smuggled from the U.S. into Mexico, an agency official said.

“I don’t really have a sense of the amount or scale, but we have seen instances of it occurring,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the subject.

More significant, experts said, the cartels are likely to shift resources away from marijuana toward other drugs that are illegal in the U.S., including heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine. A 2010 Rand study estimated that marijuana accounted for 15% to 26% of cartel revenues.

Emilio already farms a few patches of poppies used to produce heroin.

They are a more labor-intensive crop than marijuana and require more water and a bigger investment upfront. “Poppy takes longer,” he said. “And if you neglect it, the crop is useless.”

But it may be a safer bet than marijuana: High demand for heroin in the U.S. has been driving up prices, and there is little chance it will be legal any time soon.

Bonello is a special correspondent.

Cecilia Sanchez in The Times’ Mexico City bureau contributed to this report.

Vermont Hemp Farmers Find Fertile Ground in CBD Crop

A roomy, red-sided milking parlor remains the focal point of Quarry Road Farm, just as it has since Joel Pominville's father founded it in 1953. But there's a new addition this year to the 180-head Middlebury dairy operation. On a 13-acre field where corn used to grow, the first crop of hemp is nearly ready for harvest.

"Hemp is easy to grow," Pominville said. "If the money looks good and it looks like the future is good, probably we'll end up selling the herd down to an easy management."

Sam Berthiaume, his cousin and partner, put it more bluntly.

"We're looking for a future," he said. "There's no money in cows."

Quarry Road Farm is not alone in viewing hemp as a new business opportunity. From generations-old dairy operations to upstart agricultural enterprises, Vermonters are climbing aboard the hemp bandwagon. The number of farmers filing for state hemp-cultivation permits — at an annual cost of $25 — leapfrogged from 29 last year to 87 so far this year, according to the state Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.

Farmers say the hemp-farming movement is driven in large part by an explosion of interest in CBD, or cannabidiol, a chemical compound found in cannabis.

Unlike its close cousin, marijuana, hemp is high in CBD but contains less than 0.3 percent THC, the psychoactive chemical compound that gets users high. And unlike marijuana, it's been legal to grow hemp under state law since 2013. While cultivation remains illegal under federal law, authorities haven't targeted growers.

An increasing number of users have been persuaded that CBD can ease ailments from anxiety and arthritis to cancer and seizures. While the federal Food and Drug Administration prohibits producers from making curative claims, the market is exploding with Vermont-made, CBD-infused goods. And that industry is expanding beyond specialty stores, into the mainstream.

"It seems like I find out about a new CBD producer every few weeks," said Ever Green Capital Management partner Dan Chang, who is growing 1,000 hemp plants in Charlotte for research and development purposes with Gardener's Supply founder Will Raap.*

Excitement over this burgeoning industry was palpable last Saturday in the halls of the Burke Mountain Hotel & Conference Center during the inaugural Vermont Hemp Fest. Several hundred people converged to learn more about farming, testing and producing hemp products.

As farmers, scientists and entrepreneurs spoke to a conference room full of people about the growing demand for hemp, Kimball Brook Farm and the Vermont Hemp Company quietly unveiled bottles of their brand-new, CBD-infused iced tea at a festival display table.

The tea, selling for $5 a pint, vied for attention with dozens of other Vermont-made CBD products launched in the last year, including deodorant, maple candy and kombucha, as well as salves, lip balm and massage oil.

Rye Matthews is a consultant with the Vermont Hemp Company, a research and development firm based in Jericho, and the soon-to-be son-in-law of Kimball Brook Farm owners J.D. and Cheryl DeVos of Ferrisburgh. He said iced tea, which the dairy company already sells without CBD, is its first stab at using the chemical compound in a product.

"If there's interest, they're open to more," he said of Kimball Brook. That could include CBD-infused milk and butter, he said, evidence of just how mainstream this movement is becoming.

Consumer interest in CBD is also exploding, according to Eli Lesser-Goldsmith, co-owner of Healthy Living Market & Café in South Burlington. He called the speed with which so many CBD products have come onto the market "unprecedented."

CBD milk and butter from a dairy haven such as Vermont would likely find a niche on store shelves, but Lesser-Goldsmith was less confident about iced tea.

"Like every trend, only the strong survive," he said.

Farmers acknowledge that unanswerable questions abound about the industry: How solid will the market be? Which hemp strains will catch on? Will the federal government maintain its hands-off approach? Still, they are eager to get in during the early stages of something that could be big.

"Everything is still happening," Hemp Fest organizer Eli Harrington told the audience at one of the event's breakout sessions. "This is a Vermont product with a national market."

Brian Voigt, a research professor at the University of Vermont's Gund Institute for Environment, watched from the back of the room as Harrington spoke.

"I see hemp having a market potential to be the thing that's the difference between keeping a farm and losing a farm in future generations," Voigt, who is working with the Vermont Hemp Company, told Seven Days.

Vermont is one of more than a dozen states where hemp is legal to grow. Its proximity to large Northeast markets, combined with its wholesome image, makes Vermont an ideal location to become a leader in the food-related hemp trend, according to Chad Rosen, founder of Kentucky-based Victory Hemp Foods.

Rosen said he is working with Vermont Hemp Company founder Joel Bedard to establish a hemp processing facility in the Green Mountain State. Bedard said he is eyeing sites in southern Chittenden and northern Addison counties.

"It's an extremely transformative opportunity," said Bedard, whose company is buying hemp from farmers around the state, including Quarry Road in Middlebury.

For many of those getting into hemp farming, the work is part business, part evangelism.

Kyle Gruter-Curham, a 31-year-old Sterling College graduate, started growing hemp in Irasburg last year after his sister, who suffered from debilitating seizures, found CBD products a savior.

He started by planting 1,000 hemp plants. This year, Gruter-Curham seeded 4,000 and quit his job teaching science at the Laraway School in Johnson to focus full time on his new business, Creek Valley Cannabidiol. He's now producing a CBD-infused ginger kombucha beverage.

Joe Pimentel of Luce Farm in Stockbridge had started planning two years ago to grow marijuana, presuming that state legislators would approve a legalization bill. "After it didn't pass, we asked, What are our options? Hemp came on the radar," he said.

When Pimentel and his wife, Rebecca, planted this year's acre-and-a-half hemp crop, he said they didn't know whether they'd be able to sell the harvest.

"Literally in the last four months, the market has opened up," he said.

That market includes a trial batch of CBD beer in partnership with Long Trail Brewing Company. Pimentel initially approached friends at the Bridgewater Corners brewery about selling Luce Farm CBD honey in its gift shop. Next thing he knew, Long Trail was planning CBD suds.

"It happened in three weeks," Pimentel said. The beer sold out in three hours earlier this month. He hopes there will be more, though he said Luce Farm and Long Trail have made no definitive plans.

Pimentel said he is now much more interested in hemp and CBD than marijuana, even if it is eventually legalized in Vermont.

Sen. John Rodgers (D-Essex/Orleans) is a moderate Democrat with a libertarian streak who is not prone to chasing the latest fads. A stonemason by trade, he hadn't farmed in years, but this year he sowed 12 hemp plants on his property in Glover.

"I'm probably the smallest of all the hemp growers," Rodgers said. He'll use his crop to learn more about different strains, how to process the plant and whether he wants to produce CBD goods himself or just sell the hemp harvest to others. Eventually, he wants hemp farming to be his main source of income.

"A lot of things intrigue me about it," he said, including being able to work at home on his own land. The 52-year-old said his aching back, knees and ankles tell him, "At some point I've got to stop lifting stone."

Rodgers is also sold on the therapeutic value of the CBD oil extracted from hemp. "I know people using CBD who've gotten off prescription drugs. I think this stuff has potential," he said.

But the senator noted that hemp is an unusual crop to grow. "It looks exactly like marijuana," he said.

He posted a sign clearly labeling it as hemp. "If somebody stumbles out of the woods and sees the plants, they'll say, OK, I can't get high," Rodgers said.

The state Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets regularly gets inquiries from police agencies about whether a certain crop is permitted as hemp, said Tim Schmalz, the agency's plant industry section chief. When they learn a plot is registered as hemp, police leave it alone, he said.

  • Terri Hallenbeck
  • Joel Pominville of Quarry Road Farm with his modified hemp harvester

Beyond the annual permit application, according to Schmalz, hemp farmers face little regulation in Vermont. Starting this fall, the state will offer voluntary hemp testing. For $150 a sample, the tests will reveal the hemp crop's CBD and THC levels, he said.

Because hemp must test below 0.3 percent THC to be legal, farmers face a risk if their crops exceed the limit. "It's no longer hemp," Schmalz said. "We will let them know their hemp sample came in a little high and we will advise local law enforcement."

Chang, who is growing hemp for research purposes in Charlotte, said he wants the state to provide more regulation, so producers can demonstrate that their products meet standards and separate themselves from those who don't. "We need regulation to legitimize the industry," he said.

A growing number of farmers are hoping this will indeed be a legit industry.

Berthiaume, of Quarry Road Farm, said he believes in CBD's therapeutic value. He and Pominville also believe hemp represents one of the most exciting new opportunities to hit Vermont farming in years. That's made delving into hemp fun, they said.

"There's no modern history with hemp. There's no modern equipment with hemp," Berthiaume said.

So Pominville bought a used 1973 cultivator. He sounded like a kid with a new toy as he explained how, with the help of a YouTube video, he rejiggered the height of the tines to accommodate the taller-than-corn, fibrous hemp plants. He and Berthiaume can't wait to hit the hemp field with the machine.

*Correction, September 13, 2017: An earlier version of this story misstated the amount of hemp Dan Chang is growing.

Marijuana grower exposed by Google Earth

US police have used Google Earth satellite imagery to identify illegal rows of marijuana plants being cultivated by a drug farmer.

Authorities in Oregon used an aircraft to verify the satellite information taken in June, which showed dozens of plants in neat rows. Curtis Croft was discovered to be allegedly growing three times as many plants as he was allowed to propagate by law for medical purposes.

Croft was registered to grow medical marijuana for five people, which amounts to 30 mature plants, but police raid in September seized 94 plants, according to authorities.

Croft was arraigned on drug charges last week and released.

This isn't the first time Google Earth's satellite imagery has been used to find drug farms: in 2009 Swiss authorities used satellite photos from the free service to identify a large plantation of marijuana hidden within a cornfield.

In June, Google Earth images revealed another North Korean prison camp

Mobster Spilotro, Brother Found in Grave in Indiana

Two bodies recovered from a grave in a northwest Indiana cornfield were identified by the FBI late Monday as Anthony John Spilotro, reputed overseer of the Chicago mob’s interests in California and Las Vegas, and his brother, Michael.

The brothers, both of whom were awaiting trial on separate federal charges, had been beaten to death, suffering severe blows to their heads, necks and chests, Dr. John Pless, a forensic pathologist at Indiana University, said. Their mud-covered, decomposing bodies, stacked one atop the other and clad only in undershorts, were found Sunday night near Morocco, Ind., 60 miles southeast of Chicago. They had disappeared on June 14.

The grave is a few miles east of a farm reportedly once owned by Joseph Aiuppa, the reputed former godfather of the Chicago mob, who is now in prison. Federal agents contend that Aiuppa was Anthony (Tony the Ant) Spilotro’s former boss.

A farmer checking his fields discovered the grave and called authorities.

Investigators suspect that the two men “died at or near” the grave, Lt. Ken Hollingsworth of the Indiana State Police said.

Dental and fingerprint records were used in making the identifications, Ed Hegarty, agent in charge of the FBI office in Chicago, said.

Organized crime experts speculated that Anthony Spilotro--charged with three murders and implicated in several others by authorities--was himself killed because his carelessness had led to the recent conviction of Aiuppa.

Aiuppa, 79, was one of five organized crime figures convicted in Kansas City last January for conspiring to skim money from Las Vegas casinos.

“Three of the prime witnesses against the mob in Kansas City . . . (worked) under Spilotro,” said Bill Roemer, a special consultant to the Chicago Crime Commission, who investigated organized crime while assigned to the FBI’s Chicago office.

“Spilotro wasn’t doing his job in Las Vegas,” Roemer said. “He maintained too high a profile there. Mobsters flourish in darkness. Spilotro, facing three major trials, was obviously not following that dictum. He was under the glare of the harshest spotlight.”

Anthony Spilotro, 48, was to have been in court in Las Vegas Monday for a retrial of charges that he had run a burglary, extortion and arson ring there called “the Hole in the Wall Gang.” His first trial, in April, ended in hung jury.

In addition, he was awaiting trial in Las Vegas on charges that he had violated the civil rights of a government informant by having him killed. And he faced charges in Kansas City that he had conspired to skim more than $2 million from Las Vegas casinos.

He had been the target of government prosecution from the time he moved to Las Vegas in 1971. Law enforcement officials said that Spilotro’s job was to watch over the mob’s gambling interests, but the worst penalty he ever received was a $1 fine for lying on a loan application. Authorities had unsuccessfully charged him with crimes ranging from burglary to murder.

Less than five years after arriving in Las Vegas, Spilotro was considered to be the king of loan shark operations on the Las Vegas Strip. His consolidation of power and control there coincided with an extraordinary wave of violence. He was either publicly accused or questioned in more than 25 execution-style killings.

Michael Spilotro, 41, was awaiting trial in Chicago on extortion charges growing out of a massive federal investigation of prostitution, sex clubs, gambling and credit card fraud. He worked in Chicago as a part-time actor and restaurant manager.

The two were last seen driving away from Michael’s suburban Oak Park home. Their car, a 1986 Lincoln, was recovered several days later in a motel parking lot near O’Hare Airport.

The Spilotros virtually grew up surrounded by some of the most powerful mobsters in Chicago.

Al Capone used to hang out at the little Italian restaurant that their immigrant father, Patsy Spilotro, ran on Chicago’s West Side.

Joseph (Joey the Clown) Lombardo, a former West Side boss, now imprisoned, used to conduct business in a parking lot across the street from the restaurant. Anthony Accardo, another one-time mob patriarch, lived just a few blocks away.

The Spilotros were apparently the latest victims in a wave of nearly 60 Chicago-area gangland killings in the last 10 years. Several of the victims were killed on the eve of their public testimony or just after being convicted, when they might be vulnerable to government pressure to talk about mob secrets.

There was one marked difference between those killings and the murders of the Spilotro brothers. Law enforcement officials say they do not remember a recent gangland murder that anybody went to the trouble to conceal. In Chicago, bodies are generally left in the trunks of cars, not in neat, deep graves where they might never be found.

Structural Barriers

With current prices for traditional crops such as soybeans depressed due to globalization and trade wars, many farmers from coast to coast are looking to newly legal hemp as a lifeline. As with the cotton-legume transition over a century ago, hemp is also a crop that holds out hope to replenish soils, now depleted by generations of over-reliance on petrochemical fertilizers.

But the structural barriers that Black farmers face could be as much of an impediment with hemp as any other crop — unless the industry adopts meaningful equity measures.

The structural barriers that Black farmers face could be as much of an impediment with hemp as any other crop — unless the industry adopts meaningful equity measures.

Recent decades have seen resistance to discrimination and related land expropriation in the legal arena. As recently as 2018, a group of Black farmers from across the Mid-South region brought suit against the Iowa-based Stine Seed Company, charging that they had been sold poor-yielding inferior soybean seeds at a trade show, while white farmers got the high-quality seeds — long a common practice in the industry. A judge ordered the case into mediation, but it has still not been settled.

More significant was the class-action suit against the USDA . The Department’s complicity in the expropriation was blatantly evident. By 1982, Black farmers were receiving just 1% of USDA farm-ownership loans.

A 1997 report by the USDA National Commission on Small Farms examining the department’s own practices flatly admitted: “Discrimination has been a contributing factor in the dramatic decline of Black farmers over the last several decades.”

Jamaica faces marijuana shortage as farmers struggle

Heavy rains followed by an extended drought, an increase in local consumption and a drop in the number of marijuana farmers have caused a shortage in the island’s famed but largely illegal market that experts say is the worst they’ve seen.

“It’s a cultural embarrassment,” said Triston Thompson, chief opportunity explorer for Tacaya, a consulting and brokerage firm for the country’s nascent legal cannabis industry.

Jamaica, which foreigners have long associated with pot, reggae and Rastafarians, authorized a regulated medical marijuana industry and decriminalized small amounts of weed in 2015.

People caught with 2 ounces or less of cannabis are supposed to pay a small fine and face no arrest or criminal record. The island also allows individuals to cultivate up to five plants, and Rastafarians are legally allowed to smoke ganja for sacramental purposes.

But enforcement is spotty as many tourists and locals continue to buy marijuana on the street, where it has grown more scarce — and more expensive.

Heavy rains during last year’s hurricane season pummeled marijuana fields that were later scorched in the drought that followed, causing tens of thousands of dollars in losses, according to farmers who cultivate pot outside the legal system.

“It destroyed everything,” said Daneyel Bozra, who grows marijuana in the southwest part of Jamaica, in a historic village called Accompong founded by escaped 18th century slaves known as Maroons.

Worsening the problem were strict COVID-19 measures, including a 6 p.m. curfew that meant farmers couldn’t tend to their fields at night as is routine, said Kenrick Wallace, 29, who cultivates two acres in Accompong with the help of 20 other farmers.

He noted that a lack of roads forces many farmers to walk to reach their fields — and then to get water from wells and springs. Many were unable to do those chores at night due to the curfew.

Wallace estimated he lost more than $18,000 in recent months and cultivated only 300 pounds, compared with an average of 700 to 800 pounds the group normally produces.

Activists say they believe the pandemic and a loosening of Jamaica’s marijuana laws has led to an increase in local consumption that has contributed to the scarcity, even if the pandemic has put a dent in the arrival of ganja-seeking tourists.

“Last year was the worst year. . We’ve never had this amount of loss,” Thompson said. “It’s something so laughable that cannabis is short in Jamaica.”

Tourists, too, have taken note, placing posts on travel websites about difficulties finding the drug.

Paul Burke, CEO of Jamaica’s Ganja Growers and Producers Assn., said in a phone interview that people are no longer afraid of being locked up now that the government allows possession of small amounts. He said the stigmatization against ganja has diminished and more people are appreciating its claimed therapeutic and medicinal value during the pandemic.

Burke also said that some traditional small farmers have stopped growing in frustration because they can’t afford to meet requirements for the legal market while police continue to destroy what he described as “good ganja fields.”

The government’s Cannabis Licensing Authority — which has authorized 29 cultivators and issued 73 licenses for transportation, retail, processing and other activities — said there is no shortage of marijuana in the regulated industry. But farmers and activists say weed sold via legal dispensaries known as herb houses is out of reach for many given that it still costs five to 10 times more than pot on the street.

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Farmers and researchers take part in Virginia Tech's Hemp Field Day

Over 250 researchers and farmers joined forces to learn more about hemp in southwestern Virginia. At Hemp Field Day, they shared production tips and networked.

John Straw is the General Manager of TruHarvest Farms.

"It's the largest hemp farm in Southwest Virginia, we have about 85 acres of hemp planting," Straw said.

Hemp is the cannabis plant grown and used mainly for Cannabidiol (CBD) production in Virginia. Hemp had been outlawed nationwide since the "Marihuana Tax Act" was passed in the 1930s, banning both marijuana and hemp.

But hemp has far less THC than its psychedelic cousin.

CBD, on the other hand, is naturally occurring chemical that some say has mental and physical health benefits.

Since the Farm Bill passed, hemp and its derived products are now legal on a federal level once again, and it's booming across the country. Uses for hemp include thousands of products, like rope, oils, clothes, fibers similar to plastic, food and more. Many in Virginia

Straw wanted to learn from others about their production styles. That's why he came to Virginia Tech's Hemp Field Day at Kentland Farm.

"I came out to network, meet some of the industry leaders and professionals," Straw said.

There were over 250 farmers and researchers in attendance.

"We wanted to share the research we've been conducting here at Virginia Tech as well as talk to farmers and see how can we continue that research to advance their production in the future," Kelli Scott, a Virginia Cooperative Extension Agent with Montgomery County, said.

There were speakers from Virginia Tech and the hemp industry, and vendors who support farmers and hemp production.

"We see a huge rise in interest around Cannabinoids and CBD type production products, and so as many as those consumers begin to consume those products, it's really good that they have a sense of quality production," Scott said.

She says there's still a lot we don't know about hemp, but an event like this one can bring us a little bit closer to finding those answers.

"We have so much to learn when it comes to Hemp production, and so today is just beginning to scratch the surface on what's possible," Scott said.

Straw added, "These events just pull what knowledge there is, pull it together in one place."

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