Trent, the South Bend police spokesman, said local police also field occasional calls about the wild marijuana and people who illicitly try to harvest it. In some cases, trespassers have been found with garbage bags of the ditch weed.
Joe Burkus, who manages a large South Bend farm, said he has occasionally encountered people on the property and has little doubt they were looking for marijuana. And he once found a pile of leaves drying under a nearby overpass, but the farm has seen few problems overall.
“You can eradicate ditch weed as well as you can eradicate dandelion,” said Capt. David Bursten, an Indiana State Police spokesman.
“It is a lower grade, but it can be well tended, so it can be increased a little bit, and individuals partaking in that conduct could use it to, you know, split a good product into an average product and double their quantities.”
Police and local officials have taken measures over the years to get rid of the so-called “ditch weed” when it makes its annual appearance, but in many areas the plants are as rampant as ever, sometimes growing eight to 10 feet tall.
“We respond to it as we’re able. Do we have people out there searching for ditch weed? No. Generally, our efforts are concentrated on marijuana that’s being potentially cultivated.”
In fact, even as some would-be harvesters continue to find their way to the patches of wild cannabis, authorities have largely backed away from seeking and destroying ditch weed — partly because of funding cuts and a focus on more sinister drugs, but also because getting rid of the plants is seen as an impossible task.
The plants are still illegal to possess, Trent said, and once police become involved, they are obligated to treat the weed as legitimate, high-quality marijuana. Narcotics officers can spot the differences, but they still seize the ditch weed and take it for standard testing.
SOUTH BEND — In some places amid the seemingly endless rows of corn that dominate the farmland on the southwestern outskirts of South Bend, you can spot another plant that likes this fertile soil.
The sight isn’t all that uncommon in the land of Mount Everest. Cannabis is indigenous to the Himalayas, and while the plant is illegal in both India and Nepal, it thrives in the hard-to-reach corners of the famed mountain range. Several Himalayan villages also make their living on the production of cannabis, and when busted by authorities they can plausibly claim that their cannabis fields are natural.
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Cannabis used to grow wild across Europe, according to a recent University of Vermont study of fossil pollen. However, the plant had already begun to die out by the time Europeans started experimenting with agriculture – and there is no evidence that Neolithic humans ever discovered its psychoactive properties.
In neighbouring Afghanistan, the ease of growing weed in the local soil (as well as the country’s chaotic political situation) is partially how it became the world’s largest supplier of cannabis in 2010 .