Galesburg farmer says scary situation was racially motivated on hemp farm

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Demarkius Medley discovered urban farming and aquaponics in 2011. He had just had surgery to remove a tumor from his spine. His rehab took a year and a half and during that time he volunteered and found an urban garden. That turned into a hobby and eventually his own farm, Greenlords, Inc. He works a full time job, has a family, and tends to his farm on the side.

“You don’t really see too many black farmers, let alone black hemp farmers,” said Medley.

The morning of September 4, he was trimming some of his fifty hemp plants when the police arrived. Medley says they were called by a neighbor across the street who saw his cars headlights shining on the crop while he was working. They thought he was trespassing. One police officer asked him to prove he owned the farm so he got his ID and figured they could go check while he continued to work. That’s when he says 6 or 7 more officers showed up including a K-9.

“As the officers exited their vehicles and walked up with their hands on their holster, now I was scared,” recalls Medley.

On the farm, Medley has about 600 square feet of aquaponics. A method of raising fish and growing plants that thrive off the nutrients provided by the fish. He also has about fifty industrial hemp plants. Industrial hemp looks and smells like marijuana. The difference is hemp has low levels of THC, the chemical in marijuana that causes a ‘high’. Medley says once the police proved who he was, they turned to the cannabis-like crop accusing him of growing weed.

“Why would I being growing weed in the middle of Galesburg?” he asked rhetorically. He said it was industrial hemp but the officers weren’t satisfied. He went to look for his permit but couldn’t find it in the shed. That’s when he called Steve Sperry who lives next door. Steve helps out on the farm and had a copy of the license to grow. By this time Medley said, “I was trying to de-escalate the situation because now they’re searching the property.”

They walked over to Steve’s home where he was able to produce a copy of the license. It was at that moment Medley said the attitude of the police completely changed. He said he believes it was because Steve Sperry is white.

“I’m not anti-police. I support our police officers. They’re brave for what they do and I respect that. Some mistakes were made by some police officers. It’s just a sensitive time in America,” explained Medley.

Medley added that this wasn’t the first issue he’s had with the city of Galesburg. When he was attempting to start his farm he says they gave him so many hoops to jump through and lied to him about certain permits he needed.

We reached out to the Galesburg Police Department for comment but were told we had to wait up to 5 business days for a copy of the police report. The chief was also unavailable to talk and a message was left for a Lieutenant. We will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.

Kyle Beachy

Kyle Beachy

Kyle Beachy is a Multimedia Journalist for 25 News and Heart of Illinois. Born and raised in Kokomo, Indiana, he attended Indiana Wesleyan University where he studied Education and played baseball. He comes to us from Columbus, Ohio where he received a Master's Degree from The Ohio State University.

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