by Sarah Craighead Dedmon
Area law enforcement is seeking information that could lead to the arrest of the thief or thieves responsible for stealing hemp from the fields of Schoppee Farm in East Kennebec, Machias.
Farm co-owner Ben Edwards said the theft was discovered during a routine inspection of the crop, and could have taken place over the weekend of Sept. 14-15. It also appears to have been done by someone with knowledge of cannabis plants, because they only took the flowers.
“It was someone who has a basic understanding of where the value is,” said Edwards. “There’s not a whole lot of value in most of the plant. The value is concentrated in the biggest flowers and the top flower.”
Edwards said the quantity of hemp stolen might indicate the thieves intend to sell the product. However, it is not clear whether the thieves understood they were stealing hemp, not marijuana.
Hemp is a close relative of marijuana and a member of the cannabis family, but it does not impart a high. Edwards, his brother Peter and wife Allison are growing the hemp to extract cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical compound effective in the treatment of a growing list of conditions including epilepsy, via an FDA-approved drug called Epidiolex. Unlike its cousin tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is not psychoactive, meaning it does not impart the “high” associated with marijuana.
“Hemp is not any fun to smoke or consume,” said Edwards. “My guess is it would be sold as marijuana, and people would be disappointed.”
Forest Ranger Ryan Maker responded to the report and said that it’s still early in the investigation. “We’re looking for the public’s help,” said Maker “I think most likely the thieves think it’s a usable marijuana product.”
In a letter shared with this newspaper and on the farm’s Facebook page, the Edwards said this was not their first incident of theft since beginning their farm earlier this year.
“The earlier trespasses were not made public, because we truly hoped and believed that they were spontaneous, thoughtless, acts of mischievous vandalism, not a premeditated crime,” wrote the Edwards.
Ben Edwards said that other hemp farmers tell him that small hemp thefts are fairly common, and the assumption is that it’s usually marijuana smokers, possibly young, who want to take some for themselves and their friends. But the size of this robbery seems to indicate someone with a larger goal.
“The amount of hemp that was stolen is far more than even a few people could use for personal consumption. Therefore, we anticipate it will likely be offered for sale, and possibly in our community,” wrote Edwards. “If you have purchased what you thought was marijuana and it failed to result in any kind of high it is likely that you purchased industrial hemp flower, not marijuana. Please contact us, or the authorities.”
In an earlier interview with this newspaper, Edwards said that he and his wife began the farm in an effort to diversify the Washington County economy with a new, viable crop.
“The local farm economy is very difficult. We’re a long way from a good market and it’s very difficult to do beef or milk,” said Edwards. “I’m hoping other farmers could get interested in hemp, and we could work together on it.”
Maker said it’s particularly troublesome that farmers have to struggle against not only unpredictable factors like the weather, but thieves, too.
“The loss is just hurting the farmer,” said Maker.
The farm is offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator(s). Anyone with information pertaining to the theft is encouraged to contact the authorities or the farm directly at (207) 271-3600, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by stopping by the farm in East Kennebec. Information may also be submitted anonymously via the “get in touch” form at the bottom of our website www.schoppee.com.