GALESBURG (WEEK) – A black farmer was tending to his industrial hemp crop before sunrise on Sep. 4. Demarkius Medley had the headlights on his car shining onto his rows of hemp so he could see what he was trimming. The owner of the Shady Hill Saloon across the street called the police, not knowing who was in the field.
Two police officers arrived to the urban aquaponics farm on Monmouth Boulevard. “We first had a couple officers get there and then they called back in saying they had marijuana plants. We had the supervisor and two other officers come en route. At that point we didn’t know what we were looking at and thought maybe we had a marijuana grow,” explained Galesburg Police Chief Russ Idle.
What they found was not marijuana. Although it may look and smell like the THC containing, soon to be legal, plant, industrial hemp contains less than .3% THC. Medley was surprised the officers would think he would grow marijuana out in the open in the middle of the city. “As the officers exited their vehicles, they’re walking up with their hands on their holsters. So now I’m scared,” explained Medley.
Five officers and a K-9 were now at the farm, searching the property while Medley looked for his state issued license to grow hemp. Chief Idle said they weren’t aware the plant was legal to grow. “The idea of having marijuana plants growing legally is a brand new concept to us. So they didn’t jump to any conclusions or throw anybody in handcuffs but we did kind of have to investigate to find out what the situation was,” explained Chief Idle.
Medley said he was scared and worried because there were so many officers, and because he is black. “Just because I’m black doesn’t mean I’m a criminal because that’s what they made me feel like,” said Medley. Chief Idle says race had nothing to do with the response. “I don’t care what people look like, what people think. I don’t care what they believe, or what their politics are. Our job is to serve and protect the public. That’s what we’re going to do,” said Idle.
Medley wanted to make it clear that he doesn’t blame the police or want people to choose sides. He said it was just a mistake, which Idle denies. “We have a new chief. This is an opportunity for him to build relations with the black community,” said Medley.
Chief Idle has been on the job for 25 years at Galesburg Police Department but just became Chief as of this week. He says since this incident they have made it a point to locate all hemp farms in the Galesburg area, educating their officers and being better prepared for incidents like this in the future.