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Judge dismisses hemp company’s lawsuit against Oregon County

Josephine County officials burned $ 2.5 million worth of hemp that they mistakenly confiscated as marijuana.

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by a licensed cannabis grower alleging that a county in Oregon destroyed $ 2.5 million worth of hemp that he mistakenly believed to be illegal.

Although the lawsuit cannot proceed in its current form, Capital Press reports that the presiding judge will allow Organized Hemp Co. to file another lawsuit against Josephine County, Oregon while the amended version contains or alleges a different legal theory further violations of the constitution.

According to The Capital Press, the lawsuit was filed by Justin Pitts last year.

In the original complaint, Pitts said that Josephine County’s law enforcement agencies – accompanied by other government officials – seized more than 6,700 pounds of industrial hemp from one of the company’s greenhouses in April 2020.

Josephine County and Oregon Department of Agriculture officials mistakenly believed that Organized Hemp Co. owned unlicensed marijuana plants. Image via HippoPx, listed there as CCA-BY-0.0.

Although Organized Hemp Co. is licensed to grow industrial hemp, Oregon Department of Agriculture officials claimed the confiscated products were in fact marijuana – a closely related plant that contains higher levels of THC.

While marijuana is legal under Oregon law, the arrest warrant for the raid on Organized Hemp Co. found that the company’s greenhouse in the Williams area was prohibited from growing hemp or marijuana.

However, Pitt said the hemp was recently brought into the greenhouse from another facility.

In addition, Organized Hemp insisted it had notified the Oregon Department of Agriculture of the temporary relocation months before the raid.

Because Pitt and his company followed proper protocol to keep Oregon authorities informed of the whereabouts of their hemp, the lawsuit alleged that Josephine County law enforcement agencies organized hemp’s constitutional rights against unlawful searches and seizures as well have violated the rights of due process.

But earlier this week, U.S. District Judge Michael McShane agreed to dismiss the lawsuit at Josephine County’s motion.

In his ruling, McShane noted that while Organized Hemp “is understandably frustrated by the enforcement actions” that have caused a “great economic loss”, the “constitutional claims of the lawsuit are shaky at best” because the warrants themselves “appear to be valid” were.

McShane said that even if the officers “exceeded the warrant’s scope” by using hemp instead of marijuana, it was not an “unreasonable violation of the constitution,” based on the information on the warrant and an associated affidavit.

While McShane’s verdict represents a minor victory for Josephine County, the judge dismissed the lawsuit unscathed – meaning Organized Hemp Co. is free to file another lawsuit.

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