The Sideshow

Landlord mistakes tenant’s tomato plants for pot, calls cops

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Tomato plants that have not yet grown fruit (Reuters)

You say “tomato”, I say, “illegal pot farm on a Brooklyn rooftop.”

A resident in a Brooklyn apartment building got an unexpected, and unmerited, visit from the police after his superintendent called the cops to report an illegal pot-growing operation on the building’s roof.

There was just one small problem―the plants growing on the building’s roof were actually tomatoes.

“I don’t know much about plants. I’m not too good with that,” building superintendent Christian Delarosa told the New York Daily News. “When I saw them, the first thing I thought was ‘Oh, my God.’ Right there I looked it up on my phone and they looked close to marijuana plants, but I thought I should call someone who knew about plants, so I called police.”

After Delarosa put in the call, a lieutenant and two officers were sent to the scene to investigate the 15 Solo cups and the mysterious green seedlings contained within.

An unapologetic Delarosa, 34, says that while the plants turned out to be entirely legal, he wasn’t the only one fooled.

“When the police officer came he couldn't tell right away, either,” he said.

Obviously, tomato plants don't contain the psychoactive compound found in marijuana plants but they do contain nicotine.

As for the unnamed building resident? Well, he won’t be spending any time in jail. But Delarosa is still shutting down his rooftop grow operation. Even if the only thing being produced is perfectly healthy and legal produce.

“No one’s supposed to be there anyway,” Delarosa told the paper.

There are a number of plants that can be easily mistaken for cannabis, most commonly hemp, which is essentially the same plant minus the psychoactive chemicals. Other plants, like the Japanese maple, or the false Aralia have similarly shaped leaves, minus the flowering bud.

But would someone really make the same mistake with a tomato plant? Delarosa says he looked at pictures of pot plants online before calling the police. The Daily News interviewed one plant expert who said that’s a little hard to believe.

“They’re not the same species; they’re not the same genus. I don’t even think they’re part of the same family,” said Mikeal Roose, chairman of Botany and Plant Sciences at the University of California, Riverside. “It’s very hard for me to see that somebody could (confuse the two). If you put the leaves side by side, you wouldn’t be able to mistake them.”

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