What is Ditch Weed & is it Worth Smoking?
Published on 9/2/21
Also known as feral or wild cannabis, ditch weed is simply cannabis that grows in the wild and is not cultivated. There was a time in the U.S., especially in midwestern states like Minnesota, Kentucky, Kansas and Iowa, when hemp was a legal and revered cash crop grown commercially for producing essential items like textiles, rope, paper and clothing. Ditch weed is a legacy of that industry and can still be found in abundance in some parts of the country.
Does Marijuana Grow Wild?
It does, but the type of marijuana that you might find growing in a ditch by the side of the road in Indiana would most commonly be referred to as hemp. Hemp is botanically the same species as cannabis but has little to no amounts of the most common cannabinoid in marijuana: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for the psychoactive effects the plant can provide. Where does weed grow naturally? Almost everywhere. It is a strong and hardy plant with tough seeds that can spread and survive in different climates and conditions. Wild hemp identification is not difficult. If you are hiking through a field or strolling down a patch of railroad tracks and see that distinctive plant shape or catch a hint of that familiar smell, you are almost certainly in the vicinity of ditch weed.
How strong is ditch weed? Not very strong. There are some strains around the world that do well in the wild, and some people claim that certain ditch weed can produce a strong high if it is dried and cured properly, but it would be incredibly difficult to actually find any naturally growing weed with substantive amounts of THC.
Ditch Weed vs. Real Weed
With the proliferation of cannabis cultivation around the world, the main difference between the two being the levels of cannabinoids like THC and cannabidiol (CBD) has only been magnified. Real weed will provide not only a psychoactive experience that ditch weed cannot, but it will also have the potential to provide the wide variety of therapeutic properties that medical cannabis patients rely on to soothe symptoms of awful ailments thanks to its extensive cannabinoid and terpene profile. Prior to the international explosion of easily available high-quality cannabis, the term "ditch weed" was often used to describe dirty marijuana that might produce a slight high that would quickly lead to a headache and a nap. That is not an example of ditch weed. It is just poorly cultivated cannabis.
Cannabis is now cultivated in such an elevated manner that it can be manipulated to produce specific amounts of cannabinoids, flavor profiles, smells and effects. Soil and growing conditions are carefully monitored to produce the best product possible. Since ditch weed grows on its own in the wild, it is affected by environmental conditions (weather, soil, groundwater quality, wildlife) beyond its control.
Is Ditch Weed Legal?
The passage of the Farm Bill in 2018 makes it legal to grow hemp in the U.S. The bill defines legal hemp as Cannabis sativa L with no more than 0.3% THC content. Hemp cultivators must also have a license. Not surprisingly, the bill makes no mention of ditch weed, so it is yet another example of a federal law involving cannabis being unnecessarily vague in some key manner. It is possible to be arrested if caught in possession of ditch weed.
There have sadly been several cases of individuals being arrested for transporting hemp or possession of hemp since the passage of the bill. Law enforcement simply cannot (or will not) take the time to discern the difference between hemp and cannabis. This could easily relate to ditch weed. Imagine getting pulled over in a state with restrictive marijuana laws like Kansas or Nebraska with ditch weed. The officer is unlikely to believe your claims about the THC levels in the plants or buds that you have. It would not be unreasonable to expect to spend some time incarcerated (and plenty of money) while attempting to prove its legality. The risk is not worth it.
Can You Smoke Wild Hemp?
Sure. You can also smoke banana peels. Would you want to? Will smoking ditch weed get you high? Most likely not. If there is any THC, it will be a trace amount unable to provoke any psychoactive response. At best, your experience might emulate smoking poor-quality marijuana. Thankfully, there is no longer any need to resort to that level of desperation.
Have you ever encountered ditch weed? Where were you? Did you do anything with it? Tell us your story in the comments section!