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Thieves target hemp from local farms after mistaking it for marijuana

NOW: Thieves target hemp from local farms after mistaking it for marijuana

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KENOSHA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The Kenosha County Sheriff says people are stealing hemp from farms in the area because they think it's marijuana. 

It's harvest time for hemp farmers in Wisconsin, and multiple farms say they had less hemp to harvest than anticipated. One farm says they lost more than $10,000 to thieves. 

Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth says a rumor started growing online and in local bars that area farmers were growing marijuana.

"You're driving along the road and you saw a field with hemp plants in it, the average person might say, they have a whole crop of marijuana," said Sheriff Beth. "Well, they really don't."

Six different people tried stealing from a local farmer, thinking it was marijuana.

Now Jordan Teddick, Nathanial Teddick, Parker Stanton, Matthew Luna, Matthew Meck and Richard Olson have all been charged with felony damage to property. 

"It was thousands of dollars that were damaged or lost," said Beth.

One person even cut a plant down to show police, thinking they were reporting illegal activity. 

"If people are concerned or worried that it's legal or illegal, just have them call their local law enforcement," added the sheriff.

Hemp looks and smells like marijuana, but contains little to no THC, the substance that gets people high. 

The sheriff is currently investigating a second case of stolen hemp at Aquaterra Farms in Bristol.

"It's really disheartening, after spending the kind of money you have to spend for these seeds, up to two dollars a seed, to have someone come in and either willy nilly either tear out the plant or cut it down," said Wisconsin hemp farmer Brandon Pigott.

Wisconsin farmers grew a lot of hemp in the 30's, but it was illegal for decades and is now a recent trend.

State leaders hope it can help struggling farmers. 

"We're hoping this becomes a cash crop, but not for the same reason that the six people were arrested, said Sheriff Beth.

Farmers say this will actually cost them even more money because now they're going to have to put in security systems.

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