Police: 'Oops! We thought it was pot'

November 17, 2009 6:19:53 AM PST
Dutch police who mowed down what they thought were illicit marijuana plants were red-faced Thursday when it emerged they'd ruined a research group's giant, officially sanctioned field of harmless hemp. Police proudly announced Wednesday that they'd found more than 47,000 cannabis plants, with an estimated street value of nearly euro4.5 million ($6.45 million) concealed in a corn field in the Flevoland province east of Amsterdam.

They mowed down half the plants only to be informed they were the property of Wageningen University and Research Center, a respected agricultural school.

The field contained a new strain of hemp that researchers hope can be a sustainable source of fiber, Simon Vink, a spokesman for the executive board of Wageningen University and Research Center, said Thursday.

Hemp plants are related to marijuana but have only trace elements of THC, the mind-altering chemical that cannabis contains.

"The street value from a drug point of view is less than zero," Vink said.

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