Washington, DC: More than 98 percent of all of the marijuana plants seized by law enforcement in the United States is feral hemp not cultivated cannabis, according to newly released data by the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program and the Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics.
According to the data, available online at: http://www.albany.edu/sourcebook/pdf/t4382005.pdf, of the estimated 223 million marijuana plants destroyed by law enforcement in 2005, approximately 219 million were classified as "ditchweed," a term the agency uses to define "wild, scattered marijuana plants [with] no evidence of planting, fertilizing, or tending." Unlike cultivated marijuana, feral hemp contains virtually no detectable levels of THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis, and does not contribute to the black market marijuana trade.
Previous DEA reports have indicated that between 98 and 99 percent of all the marijuana plants eradicated by US law enforcement is ditchweed.
NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre criticized the DEA program for spending millions of taxpayers' dollars to predominantly eradicate wild hemp. "The irony, of course, is that industrial hemp is grown legally throughout most the Western world as a commercial crop for its fiber content," he said. "Yet the US government is spending taxpayers' money to target and eradicate this same agricultural commodity."
According to a 2005 Congressional Research Service report, "The United States is the only developed nation in which industrial hemp is not an established crop."
St. Pierre said that most of the hemp plants eradicated by law enforcement are remnants of US-government subsidized crops that existed prior to World War II. "Virtually all wild hemp goes unharvested and presents no legitimate threat to public safety," he said. "As such, it should be of no concern to the federal government or law enforcement."
According to DEA figures, Indiana reported seizing over 212 million ditchweed plants - far more than any other state. Missouri law enforcement confiscated some 4.5 million plants, and Kansas reported eradicating approximately 1.2 million plants. More than half of all states failed to report their ditchweed totals.
California led all 50 states in the number of cultivated cannabis plants eradicated in 2005, with the DEA reporting that more than 2 million plants had been destroyed.
The Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program is a joint federal and state effort funded, in part, by the DEA.
DITCHWEED ERADICATED (2005)
Indiana (212,441,768 plants confiscated)
Missouri (4,529,695 plants confiscated)
Kansas (1,177,976 plants confiscated)
Wisconsin (272,650 plants confiscated)
Oklahoma (100,736 plants confiscated)
CULTIVATED CANNABIS** ERADICATED (2005)
California (2,011,277 plants confiscated)
Kentucky (510,502 plants confiscated)
Tennessee (440,362 plants confiscated)
Hawaii (255,113 plants eradicated)
Washington (136,165 plants confiscated)
**DEA footnote: "May include 'tended' ditchweed."
For more information, please contact NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre or NORML Senior Policy Analyst Paul Armentano at (202) 483-5500.