Agro Dynamics, LLC filed an amended complaint on Friday in a suit alleging that the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the County of San Diego violated constitutional rights by destroying $3.45 million of its hemp plants which were purportedly grown lawfully.
The amended complaint added causes of action citing violations of the United States Constitution, the California Constitution, breaches of United States and California Code, conversion, trespass, and negligence. It removed causes of action from the initial complaint including, the fifth amendment, clauses in the California Constitution for unlawful search and seizure and taking private property, and the California Torts Claims Act, leaving only the fourth amendment claim for unlawful search and seizure.
The lawsuit was moved by the United States to the California Southern District Court from the San Diego Superior Court on October 22nd. In addition to the DEA and San Diego County, individuals involved in the law enforcement for both parties and the United States of America were named as defendants. Allegedly, a DEA agent flew a drone over the plaintiff’s Fallbrook, California location and used surveillance footage from the drone to receive an “unconstitutional” search warrant for marijuana, which was executed by law enforcement the following day. The plaintiff claimed that the officers did not listen to the tenant who informed them that it was industrial hemp and was allowed, and proceeded to seize and destroy the plants.
The Federal Farm bill reportedly authorized cultivation of hemp in 2018. Industrial hemp was made legal in California in 2017. The plaintiffs obtained permission from San Diego county to plant about 3,000 hemp plants, which according to a lab test done by the company had less than .3 percent THC and were considered hemp.
The complaint said that the DEA agent who conducted the aerial drone flight did not have any reason to believe that the plants were marijuana instead of hemp, and that the affidavit he gave did not mention the possibility that the plants were hemp, but said the plants looked like marijuana. Marijuana and hemp reportedly look the same, and can only be differentiated through testing. The plaintiff claimed that the “omissions in the Affidavit were made intentionally and with reckless disregard for the truth.”
The plaintiff asked the court again in its amended complaint for over $3.45 million in damages, saying that it would have commercialized the hemp plants by now if they had not been destroyed and made a significant amount of revenue. Agro Dynamics also sought statutory damages as well as putative and actual damages from each plaintiff.