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What Is Ditch Weed?

Ditch weed – also called feral marijuana or feral weed – is wild cannabis descended from industrial hemp plants previously grown for fiber. Ditch weed contains only trace amounts of THC, the main component responsible for cannabis’ psychoactive experience.

One of the most persistent wild crops, ditch weed is true to its namesake in that it proliferates in the American Midwest, and little effort has been made to eradicate it. Read on to learn more about ditch weed, where it came from, and whether it provides any potential benefits.

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What Is Ditch Weed?

The DEA defines ditch weed as “wild, scattered marijuana plants” that show no evidence of being planted, fertilized, or otherwise touched by cultivators. Ditch weed is notoriously resilient to the elements and disperses its seeds across a wide area, resulting in sizable crops stretching for miles. These seeds can also lie dormant for up to 10 years before sprouting.

Ditch weed arose out of the industrial hemp machine of the American Midwest, which reached its peak in the mid-20th century to support the war efforts during World War II. Though the U.S. made cannabis illegal shortly after, the plant has naturally re-seeded and grown wild in states like Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, Indiana, and other Midwestern areas.

Where to Find It

As the name suggests, ditch weed is the slang term for cannabis often found on the roadside in ditches, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture described it as such as far back as 1914.

Ditch weed is highly noticeable, taller than most plants surrounding it, and distinct in color and shape. Feral marijuana can grow up to nine feet tall and sports a rich, emerald-green color. Its pine tree conical shape makes a plant recognizable from far distances.

Feral marijuana is primarily found in midwestern states because that’s where the bulk of U.S. industrial farming was before it was made illegal. For some time, the DEA attempted to eradicate ditch weed nationwide, and in 2003 it reported that about 99% of the cannabis destroyed in the program was feral marijuana. However, most attempts to eradicate it have since ended; as one Indiana police captain said, “You can eradicate ditch weed as well as you can eradicate dandelions.”

Does Ditch Weed Provide Any Benefits?

Consuming ditch weed likely doesn’t provide any benefits. It’s descended from industrial hemp, cultivated for its fiber content strength rather than its cannabinoid profile or terpene content.

While some hemp cultivated today has higher levels of CBD, most ditch weed tested contains minimal beneficial cannabinoids and not nearly enough to have a noticeable impact on the body. Despite anecdotal accounts to the contrary, ditch weed does not get you high.

Feral cannabis also lacks the properties and protections offered by a cultivator-raised plant. Marijuana plants in ditches have been ravaged by the elements, attacked by pests, warped by the scant nutrients of unfertilized soil, and may contain heavy metals or other toxins. It is ill-advised to consume cannabis without knowing how it grew or what other chemicals may exist within the plant.


Following the Farm Bill of 2018, ditch weed is technically legal as it descends from industrial hemp and contains little to no THC. However, the law offers no clear understanding of the legal consequences of being caught with feral marijuana.

Law enforcement personnel, especially in states like Iowa and Kansas, where cannabis is still highly illegal, aren’t likely to try to differentiate between ditch weed and its cultivated counterpart. Some law enforcement personnel reportedly watch for individuals in ditches loading up on what seems like free cannabis. They’re also looking for individuals who deliberately plant marijuana in ditches before returning to collect, which is illegal.

Even if you’re in a state that has legalized cannabis, the regulations surrounding cultivation and harvesting are strict, and it’s likely punishable by law to collect ditch weed. To remain on the right side of the law, stick to the top-shelf, tested products from your local dispensary.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can you get high off ditch weed?

While you can smoke ditch weed, it's not recommended. Feral marijuana contains nearly untraceable amounts of THC or other cannabinoids and fails to produce psychoactive experiences.

Is there CBD in ditch weed?

Ditch weed descends from industrial hemp, bred for fiber production, or omega oil for nutrition products. While hemp fiber or seeds contain higher amounts of CBD than the 0.3% of THC legally permitted in the plants, ditch weed's overall cannabinoid content is likely very low. Ditch weed's levels won't provide the expected health benefits of other CBD products without selective breeding for CBD content.

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