Photo: Frank Carrillo
Hemp may look like marijuana, smell like marijuana, and have flowering buds like marijuana, but it contains only 0.3% Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), meaning it will not get you high like marijuana.
Hemp is legal to grow, and is trending with Fresno County farmers. But its resemblance to the marijuana plant has increased reports of agricultural theft as thieves are raiding hemp farms they are stealing marijuana. This creates a dangerous situation for all involved as the thieves often bring firearms to the heists.
A farm near East American and South Leonard Avenues in Del Rey was twice targeted in a span of 8 days, and both times the thieves were armed. When deputies arrived about 7:30PM on September 27th, the property owner reported approaching two people loading hemp plants into their vehicle.
Before driving off one of the suspects pointed a gun at the victim. The evening of October 4th, upwards of 20 people were at the farm stealing plants. The property owner spotted one of the suspects with a gun. The suspects were gone before deputies arrived.
Deputies were able to catch two suspects red-handed a few days later. The morning of October 7th, 39-year old Frank Carrillo, and 51-year old Abraham Garza, both of Fresno, were caught with 25 plants, worth $5,000, from a Selma farm located near South Willow and East Mountain View Avenues.
Carrillo and Garza were both booked into the Fresno County Jail and could be charged with grand theft. Garza additionally could be charged with a misdemeanor for possession of methamphetamine.
Hemp farms are regulated by the Department of Agriculture. Growers are required to be licensed and have proper signage on their farms. Signs may include “No Trespassing” messages and notify that what is being grown is hemp, not marijuana.