Don't Let These Marijuana Lookalikes Send You To Jail!

Did you hear about the guy in Georgia who said police raided his home after they mistook the okra he was growing for marijuana? Okra doesn't look like pot to me, but maybe it does to a cop hovering 60 feet above in a helicopter.

The poor guy thought the police were after his okra plants, but they were actually interested in the plant they really thought was Mary Jane -- chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus). Neither he or the cops knew what it was. This just underscores the importance of knowing your plants, so you don't get hauled off by Miami Vice. Here are four popular plants often mistaken for weed.

Pot Imposter #1 -- Chaste tree

Yep, this is what got Mr. Perry into deep doo-doo with those detectives. I sure hope it isn't a giant marijuana tree, because I took this picture in my front yard. (Hey, you kids, stop stripping the foliage!) Without the flowers, chaste tree does indeed resemble marijuana. The leaves of both are palmately compound with chaste tree's having 5 to 7 narrow leaflets and Happy Plant's having 7 to 9. Far from getting you high, chaste tree has the opposite effect, as you might guess from its name. During the Middle Ages, an extract from its seeds was used by monks to decrease libido and remain pure. Maybe they should have just smoked pot.

Pot Imposter #2 -- Texas Star

Right after I graduated from college, I lived in an apartment complex where an Asian lady maintained a little garden. Every morning, she was out there watering, weeding, and cultivating. I marveled at her dedication until I figured out what she was growing -- pot! The leaves looked just like it. What foolhardiness, I thought, considering that a least a half-dozen cops lived in the complex. Why, I'll be she brought the seeds with her all the way from Vietnam!

Then the plants bloomed. Huge, star-shaped, scarlet flowers opened up atop the stems. Could this be the infamous "Panama Red?" No, it was a species of native hibiscus related to okra called Texas star (Hibiscus coccineus). I called off the DEA.

Pot Imposter #3 -- Japanese Maple

Maybe this is "Panama Red." Wrong again! It's just a Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) in fall color. If this one is illegal, half of the South will be moving to Amsterdam.

Pot Impostor #4 -- Spider Flower

Just like pot, spider flower (Cleome) is a favorite Southern passalong. Only it's legal. But it sure doesn't look legal before it blooms. The leaves look like they'd set you free.

What Have We Learned? We have learned that some of our favorite vegetables and flowers can cause armed police to drop out of the sky and haul off your fanny to the slammer. To prevent this, we have also learned it is vitally important for you to authoritatively identify and defend your questioned plant, as in, "Hands off my Vitex! Can't you recognize an obvious member of the Verbeneacaea family?"

To help you point out the manifest differences between your plants and ganja, here is a photo of what real marijuana looks like. Please note that it is not Grumpy's photo, as he has never encountered a marijuana plant in his life.

Not until next summer's vacation to Colorado, anyway. Rocky Mountain high, Colorado. Rocky Mountain highhhhhhhhhh............

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