Organisation - September 3, 2009

Oops! Police in WUR cannabis blunder

A cannabis plantation in Flevoland triumphantly uprooted by police yesterday turned out to be a trial field belonging to Wageningen UR.

A still from Oproep Flevoland's film
The police called in TV Flevoland to cover their crackdown on 'the biggest illegal cannabis farm in the Flevopolder'. The news report clearly shows how energetically the police went to work on digging up the plants.  And what a harvest!  About 47,000 cannabis plants with a street value of 4.4 million euros were found in the field measuring 200x10 metres. A row of maize plants along the edge cleverly hid them from view. Exactly what criminals would do.  Excitement mounts as the commentator warns that the police have an idea who the culprits are. So much for the film.
Well, it turned out that there was nothing criminal about it all. The field at the Wisentweg belongs to us, explained Wageningen UR spokesperson Simon Vink. 'We are carrying out a plant breeding trial. The maize plants were planted along the borders to prevent pollen from coming into contact with other crops.' The hemp plants were cultivated for their fibres, which would be used to make ropes or textiles.  According to Vink, the cannabis is no use at all as a drug. 'Much of the active ingredient has been bred out of it.'
 Wageningen UR finds the police blunder difficult to understand. 'Our trial fields have been correctly registered and we have all the required permits. You can find out that this is our field simply by consulting the land register.' Vink says that the police had not contacted Wageningen UR when they discovered the cannabis plants.
 The management of the Plant Sciences Group only got wind of the police raid when harvesting was in full steam on Wednesday morning. It sprang into action immediately, but harvesting only stopped after permits were produced. It was not clear how many plants had been uprooted by that time. Vink says some plants are left. 'But the damage is enormous. Not only are the plants ruined, the research work will also be affected. There's certainly going to be a claim.'
The police have not commented on the case.