Nestled beside the vegetables and a seaberry bush, Mark Krawczyk was raising two cannabis plants in the garden on his 12-acre New Haven property.
But when he woke up Tuesday morning, the stalks had been stripped. Plants that had been bursting with ready-to-harvest cannabis flower were barren.
Krawczyk was devastated.
“We put a lot of care and energy into the plants,” Krawczyk said. “It’s a bummer. We were excited it was legal.”
He and his wife had planted the cannabis behind chickenwire in their 2,000-square-foot garden shortly after Vermont legalized weed on July 1. The property is shielded from Route 7 by a hedgerow, and Krawczyk said the plants weren’t visible from the road, where cars go whizzing by at 55 miles per hour. He theorized that someone scoped out their property, likely from an adjacent hayfield.
Then, he surmised, the thieves waited until the couple went to sleep and made off with the bud, sometime between 1 a.m. and 8 a.m. Tuesday.
“I haven’t had many things stolen from me in my life, but the feeling you get of having someone access our property and willingly take something like that just ... sucks,” a frustrated Krawczyk said. “We’d cut a few branches but that was pretty much it. We’d just started planning on harvesting this weekend. It was perfect timing on [the thieves’] part.”
Instead of enjoying their bounty, the couple headed two miles up the road to the Vermont State Police barracks and reported the theft.
“Going to the cops to tell them that someone stole cannabis is a very counterintuitive thing to do,” Krawczyk said with a laugh. He joked that he couldn’t stop thinking of an old “Mad TV” skit about making such a report in the era before cannabis legalization swept the nation.
Krawczyk said state police were “very professional and receptive.”
“It was nice to feel like we could confidently approach them and report a theft,” he said. “I was a little nervous initially.”
Vermont State Police spokesperson Adam Silverman said in an email that he was unaware of the report but referenced an incident involving an East Charleston man who went to police in August after someone stole his stash.
"Generally speaking, the Vermont State Police would investigate any reported theft of legal property," Silverman said.
It's not just THC-laden plants that the thieves are after, either. Police in a press release Wednesday afternoon reported the theft of hemp plants from Gaylord Farm in Waitsfield.
“Several plants have been stolen and or damaged,” a trooper from the Middlesex barracks wrote. “These incidents are occurring overnight and the plants are believed to be mistaken for marijuana.”
On Monday, Colchester police announced that there had been a rash of hemp plant thefts from Humble Roots Horticulture. Heady Vermont reported that 12 people had been cited in those thefts, which resulted in approximately 400 missing plants. An Essex Junction hemp farmer has also reported thefts.
“It’s possible people are confusing hemp plants with THC, and also possible that people are knowingly stealing hemp and trying to pass it off and sell it as marijuana,” Colchester Police Sgt. Francis Gonyaw told Heady Vermont.
Krawczyk said he spoke out because he worries other recreational cannabis growers could be similarly targeted. He fears that thefts could spike as plants mature and harvest looms ahead of the first frost.
“It’s just a good reminder that this stuff does exist in our community, so we’re going to be more cautious just in general,” Krawczyk said. “My message to people is to be aware and be careful.”