St. Paul Man Discovers Apparent Secret Marijuana Fields
Is St. Paul going to pot?
A resident says he stumbled upon what appears to be some secret marijuana fields.
The discovery has property owners and law enforcers scrambling to take action.
The resident, Rick Cheney, says he couldn't believe what he was seeing. He was certain he'd uncovered several plots of pot.
In fact, Cheney says he found crops in three separate locations while hiking near St. Paul's southern border. “I was shocked at how much of it there was,” he said.
KSTP checked out each area and found plants and leaves of all sizes that--at the very least-- resembled marijuana. Some stalks were nine feet tall, most of it hidden in the midst of other plants, but easily accessible.
To find out for sure, KSTP picked some samples and brought them to an expert for analysis.
“This is cannabis sativa,” said Anita Cholewa, without a second’s hesitation, as she examined the plants. Cholewa is a botanist with the University of Minnesota. “No doubt about it. There's not much in our flora that has leaves that look like this"
But there's a catch. Cannabis sativa could be marijuana -- or it could instead be hemp, a plant that's grown for its seeds, oil and fiber.“They're virtually identical, and you need to do the chemical analysis to tell whether or not they have the THC in them,” Cholewa said.
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the illegal, mood altering compound marijuana contains.
5EWNews then sent the samples to a toxicology lab. Two weeks later the results were in: this cannabis contained THC.
Our next stop—the St. Paul Police Department. When told of the findings, Sgt. Paul Paulos said, "We will take the appropriate actions to destroy those plants.”
Police asked the city public works department to cut down dozens of plants in one of the areas that Rick Cheney stumbled upon, believed to be city property.
Dave Hunt, who spoke on behalf of public works, said, "We crushed it and mixed it with other vegetable matter and it's been turned into compost."
The city determined that the plants found in a second area, by some railroad tracks, were on land owned by the Soo Line Railroad Company. It pulled and disposed of them as well.
And in the third spot where the plants were found, turns out that land is owned by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The state mowed them down.
According to Paulos, "It would be illegal to have this in your possession, to go out and cultivate it, to pick the leaves, to dry it, to cure it and smoke it.”
Still, local law enforcers, including those from the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, say this cannabis wasn't part of some underground drug ring.
“It's growing wild,” Paulos said, commonly referred to as "ditch weed."
And while it does indeed contain THC, its potency is believed to be minimal. Smoke this weed and, according to Paulos, “all you'll get is a pretty bad headache in the end.”
They also say it's not limited to St. Paul.
Believed to have originated in southwestern Minnesota in the 1940s, when the plants were harvested and used to produce rope, their seeds have been spread by the wind, and by birds, ever since. As a result, they pop up all over the Twin Cities area every year. Until the late 2000s, the DEA says it used to destroy millions of them in Minnesota every year. But the program grew too costly, was discontinued.
That means, come next spring, Rick Cheney might very well stumble on yet another field--of weeds.
Mark Saxenmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org