Who among us doesn’t like to brag after a job well done? It’s human nature, right?
Given this fact, it’s both curious and notable that the DEA has suddenly ceased publicizing data regarding how many millions of feral hemp plants (aka "ditchweed") law enforcement eradicate each year.
In previous years, upwards of 98 percent of all the pot seized by law enforcement was categorized as "ditchweed" — a term the DEA uses to define “wild, scattered marijuana plants [with] no evidence of planting, fertilizing, or tending.”
For instance, in 2005 the DEA reported that cops destroyed some 219 million feral hemp plants versus only four million cultivated marijuana plants. DEA data for the year 2004 tells a similar story. Of the estimated 265 million marijuana plants destroyed by law enforcement that year, more than 262 million (roughly 99 percent) were classified as "ditchweed."
So, how much ditchweed did police confiscate in 2007? That would be anyone’s guess.
Upon referencing Table 4.38 (Number of marijuana plants eradicated and seized, arrests made, weapons seized, and value of assets seized under the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program, by State, 2007) in the latest version of the Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, visitors will discover that the column that previously reported on "ditchweed" seizures (in prior years’ tables, it was seventh column from the left) is now conspicuously missing.
So why would the DEA abruptly want to cease taking credit for destroying hundreds of millions of pounds of marijuana each year? Perhaps it’s because unlike cultivated marijuana, feral hemp contains virtually no detectable levels of THC — the primary psychoactive component in cannabis — and does not contribute to the black market marijuana trade.
Or perhaps it’s because the public was finally beginning to smarten up to the fact that they’ve been paying their police millions of dollars each year to do nothing more than pull a few weeds.
Paul Armentano [send him mail] is the senior policy analyst for NORML and the NORML Foundation in Washington, DC. He is the author of "Emerging Clinical Applications for Cannabis and Cannabinoids: A Review of the Scientific Literature" (2007, NORML Foundation).