Josephine County officials burnt $2.5 million worth of hemp, which they had mistakenly seized as marijuana.
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by an authorized cannabis grower, which claims that an Oregon county destroyed $2.5 million worth of hemp that it mistakenly believed to be illegal.
While the lawsuit will not be able to proceed in its present form, the Capital Press reports that the presiding judge will permit Organized Hemp Co. to file another complaint against Josephine County, Oregon, so long as the amended version incorporates a different legal theory or alleges additional constitutional violations.
According to The Capital Press, the lawsuit was filed last year by its own, Justin Pitts.
In the original complaint, Pitts said that Josephine County law enforcement officers—accompanied by other government officials—seized more than 6,700 pounds of industrial hemp from one of the company’s greenhouses in April 2020.
Even though Organized Hemp Co. has a license to grow industrial hemp, Oregon Department of Agriculture officials claimed the products they seized were actually marijuana—a closely-related plant that contains a higher concentration of THC.
While marijuana is legal under Oregon law, the warrant used to raid Organized Hemp Co. stated that the company’s Williams-area greenhouse was not permitted to grow either hemp or marijuana.
However, Pitt said that the hemp had recently been moved to the greenhouse from another facility.
Furthermore, Organized Hemp insisted that it had told the Oregon Department of Agriculture about the temporary transfer months before the raid ever occurred.
Since Pitt and his company followed proper protocol to keep Oregon authorities informed of their hemp’s whereabouts, the lawsuit alleged that Josephine County law enforcement violated Organized Hemp’s constitutional rights against unlawful searches and seizures, as well as its due process rights.
But earlier this week, U.S. District Judge Michael McShane agreed to dismiss the lawsuit at Josephine County’s request.
In his ruling, McShane noted that, while Organized Hemp is “understandably frustrated with the actions of enforcement” which caused a “large economic loss,” the lawsuit’s “constitutional claims are shaky at best” because the warrants themselves were “facially valid.”
McShane said that, even if officers “exceeded the scope of the warrant” by taking hemp rather than marijuana, this was not an “unreasonable constitutional violation” based on the information contained in the warrant and an associated affidavit.
While McShane’s ruling represents a minor victory for Josephine County, the judge did dismiss the lawsuit without prejudice—meaning that Organized Hemp Co. is free to file another lawsuit.