Ask Our Experts: How Prevalent Is Hemp Crop Theft?


Q: I keep seeing stories in the news about hemp farmers having their crop stolen by people mistaking it for cannabis; is it really that common?

By New Frontier Data

A: From incidents ranging from New York and Pennsylvania to a particularly inept pair in California, the recent harvest season has seen a spate of stories reporting hemp crop thefts.

While the phenomenon has simply arisen with the establishment of widespread hemp cultivation after the 2018 Farm Bill, the notion of thieves mistaking hemp for cannabis makes for good headlines to feed the 24-hour news cycle. But how prevalent is the crime? Precise data is elusive.

After the Hemp Business Journal reached out to multiple state departments of agriculture to determine the extent and severity of hemp crop theft, they unanimously replied that they do not track crop thefts. Though most state hemp programs require seed-to-sale tracking (which would necessarily include reports of theft), they seem not to tally statistics about such.

Thus, there is no central database or repository for hemp theft statistics. Nevertheless, the issue continues to plague cultivators throughout the United States. As reported in the New York Times, hemp farmers have had to resort to taking security measures, along with posting signs explicitly stating that the crop is industrial hemp, not cannabis.

While foolproof protection of a crop may be impossible, there are some preventative solutions to consider, including:

  • Planting crops in an area not easily visible from the road;
  • Installing motion-detecting lights around the farm;
  • Raising fencing;
  • Installing security cameras; or
  • Employing security guards.

Apart from those suggestions, farmers can take solace in their sacrifice to sabotage the illicit cannabis market (whether by angering customers expecting cannabis, or by the thieves’ trying witlessly to consume their ill-gotten gain).