No, Cops Did Not Bust a 'Billion Dollar' Cannabis Grow in Kern County

I used to collect baseball cards and I’d tear open pack after pack to build my collection, but also to seek out exceedingly “rare” cards that my subscription to Beckett Magazine told me were worth anywhere from a pile of dimes to hundreds of dollars or more. Rookie cards and error cards were my dragons and 11 year old me was chasing them. Then my father decided it was time for me to learn a harsh, but essential life lesson: Something is only worth what someone else will give you for it. He pointed to all of the binders full of “common” cards I had piling up and asked me what my magazine valued them at. “Benito Santiago… $0.04… Mookie Wilson… $0.03…” He asked me who would give me three nearly worthless pennies for that card and answered his own question, “Nobody, that’s who.” And he was right. Whether you are appraising baseball cards or houses, that bitch is only worth what the next guy will pay.

Apparently, the armor-clad weed-whackers at the Kern County Sheriff’s Office never learned this lesson.

So, to counter the slew of half-baked headlines we saw this morning, NO, there was not a BILLION DOLLARS of “black market” weed discovered growing 100 miles north of Los Angeles.

The press reports are trash and are based mostly off of a Facebook post by the cops who handled the “bust” (because that’s the era we live in, cops tickling their dopamine triggers with social media Likes), but here is what we can muster so far...

Earlier this year, somebody planted an estimated 10 million cannabis plants in the Arvin region of SoCal. As you might imagine, there is no way to camouflage that or do a guerilla grow of 400+ acres of sungrown cannabis – it is wide out in the open. Of course, there are no outdoor cultivation licenses for operations that large in SoCal for the actual regulated recreational cannabis market, but these farmers will surely claim that they were not trying to grow legal cannabis, they were trying to grow legal hemp.

The former is strictly illegal in Kern County, but the latter is now permissible in the wake of the 2018 Farm Bill which lifted all the federal prohibition of any hemp plant that contains <0.3% THC. That is the new definition we are being made to adhere to: Anything over 0.3% THC is cannabis, anything under that same threshold is hemp. Same plant, two names, and two very different treatments under local, state, and federal laws.


“Hot” hemp is a major issue for farmers nationwide who dedicated major acreage to growing the regenerative crop with visions of sweet, sweet CBD dollars dancing through their heads. That term, “hot”, refers to any hemp crop that fails its compliance testing by registering anything above 0.3% THC.

From genetics, to environment, to even the slightest changes to climate, there are so many variables that will determine a plant’s final THC ratio, and many of those variables are out of the farmer’s hands. Even degradation of legal/unregulated cannabinoids can result in a jump in THC AFTER THE PLANT IS HARVESTED.

The USDA just released tentative regulations for how hemp will be overseen by the feds and the states, and they propose a second THC window, between 0.3% and 0.5% THC. Any plants that fall in that slightly higher range will still be destroyed under the new regs, but at least that farmer won’t face criminal federal charges like his neighbor who tested at 0.51%THC. It’s so damn ridiculous and it is leading to headlines like this one from Reuters proclaiming:

First U.S. hemp harvest is a bust

So that takes us back to Kern County where it is clear to anyone with a brain that the cultivation operation in question was obviously a hemp grow. Or, at least, was intended to be. The authorities would only vaguely offer that the plants in question were testing “well above” the 0.3% THC limit which can mean anything when you are dealing with a cop shop trying to sell a “billion dollar bust” to the public.

They say that their investigation is ongoing but they estimate that the bioboof seen here being flattened by a bulldozer would have been “worth” a billion dollars or more on the streets. Unless there is some massive underground market for overpriced hemp rope or apparel, we think their estimate is way too high.

As mentioned already, there is plenty of precedence here with unproven hemp genetics and unproven hemp farmers coming together to produce non compliant hemp crops so we can believe that to likely be the case here, or we can believe the cops who are pausing their touchdown dance just long enough to tell us that these particular farmers thought they would get away with growing 10 million pot plants under the watchful eye of Google Earth.

I’ll bet you this Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card that if we ever learn the real test results of that Kern County ditchweed, you won’t find one streetwise stoner who would buy it. But hey, we gotta admit, “Kern County Cops Bulldoze 10 Million CBD Rich Plants Because of Overbearing Regulation” just doesn’t have the same ring to it as some bullshit about a billion dollars and the black market.

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