Thanks to prohibition, people around the world get raided every year for growing cannabis in states or countries where the plant remains illegal. But some of those people weren't actually growing cannabis at all. Turns out, there are a number of plants that resemble cannabis enough to fool law enforcers.
So if you're thinking of taking up gardening as a hobby, you might want to avoid planting any of these cannabis look-a-likes in your yard.
Formally known as Acer palmatum, this Asian plant produces a serrated leaf that looks strikingly similar to that of cannabis. First off, the Japanese maple is a tree that can grow 20-30 feet tall, which is much, much higher than the average cannabis plant. Second, there's an obvious difference in the color of the plant's leaves. The Japanese maple produces leaves that are usually bright red, not the lush green that you typically see on cannabis.
However there is one variety of Acer palmatum that is a little closer to cannabis in color. The Tamukeyama often sports leaves that are green instead of red. It's also a shrub instead of a tree, which means that it grows to roughly the same height as a cannabis plant. But as a shrub, the Tamukeyama is much bushier than the stalky cannabis plant. So if you see a plant that looks a bit too husky to be cannabis, you're probably looking at the Tamukeyama.
We've actually written about the similarities between the Buckeye leaf and cannabis before. Football players at Ohio State University have a long history of putting little buckeye leaf stickers on their helmets, and people have been getting up in arms about the school's apparent cannabis imagery for years.
Up close, however, you can see that the buckeye leaf is much rounder than marijuana's foliage. And of course, much like the Japanese maple, buckeyes are trees, so you'd have a hard time confusing the two plants if you saw them next to each other since one is much, much bigger.
Buckeye leaves are also poisonous, so you really shouldn't be smoking them anyway.
The coralbush—or Jatropha multifida, if you're into sciencey names—is another tree with a leaf bearing similarities to cannabis. It's another instance where you might get a little mixed up if you only saw the plant's leaves, but you probably wouldn't confuse it for cannabis if you saw the whole tree.
You'd have to make a bit of stretch to confuse this next plant for marijuana, but under the right circumstances, it could happen.
The cinquefoils (also known as potentilla) is a flowering plant that is common in northern parts of the world. Their leaves do resemble cannabis, but they are much smaller and have a softer shape than the jagged edges of the marijuana leaf. Of course, the flowers growing on the cinquefoils makes it pretty hard to confuse with cannabis, but if those petals haven't bloomed yet, then someone could easily get confused.