Thieves out to steal marijuana from farmers, sometimes at gunpoint, are taking industrial hemp from farms, even though the plants do not contain a significant amount of THC, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office reported Tuesday.
According to department spokesman Tony Botti, it appeared suspects in a recent theft were under the mistaken impression that they were taking plants that could be used or resold by those seeking a marijuana high.
It is difficult to distinguish between the psychoactive plant and the hemp plant, so farmers often use signs to tell passersby what is growing in their fields.
Nevertheless, thefts are taking place, including three recent ones in Fresno County, Botti said.
On Sept. 27, a property owner near South Leonard and East American avenues in the Del Rey area approached two men taking plants from a field. One of the men brandished a firearm before the pair fled.
On Friday, 15 to 20 people were at the same field taking plants, one of them armed, as well.
On Monday, two men were arrested after they were found in possession of about 25 plants near South Willow and East Mountain View avenues. They were identified as Frank Carrillo, 39, and Abraham Garza, 51, both of Fresno.
Botti said they face charges of grand theft, and Garza was also booked on charges of possession of methamphetamine.