False cannabis prompts investigation

Thursday, July 18, 2002

KENNETT -- Geraldine Rhodes was playing a game of cards with her husband, Robin, when she received a call of warning from her friend, Imogene Dennis.

"Imogene asked me what the police were doing in my yard. At the time I didn't know what was going on. But when I looked outside I saw the police staked out in front of my house."

After awhile Rhodes noticed that the Bootheel Drug Task Force were in her yard with a few police officers taking pictures of a plant.

Rhodes learned that one of the plants in her yard was suspected to be marijuana.

"I wasn't scared when I found out, because I knew it wasn't marijuana that I had in my yard," Rhodes said.

Rhodes explained that what had been mistaken for marijuana was in fact a Texas star hibiscus, also known as a false cannabis. She said she received her first hibiscus as a gift from a friend. She said she has more than one plant in her yard and has for at least seven years. She said no one reported her before.

"The police told me that one of my neighbors reported me for growing marijuana in the yard. So the police came down to take a look," she said.

One of the officers with the Bootheel Drug Task Force to arrive on the scene was Tim Trowbridge.

"He was real nice," Rhodes said. "In fact, they all were." Trowbridge said, "With all our drug training we were able to tell immediately that the plant wasn't marijuana." Trowbridge said some of the obvious differences he noticed between the Texas star hibiscus and a marijuana plant was the color. He said marijuana is a much brighter green than the hibiscus, and he said the leaf shape of the plants are different.

"It's our job to leave no stone unturned, so we investigate every report no matter what," Trowbridge said.

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