California County Asks for Dismissal of Third Amended Hemp Seizure Complaint

The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors asked for the dismissal of a lawsuit alleging the board, its members, San Joaquin County Council, and the county’s sheriff illegally seized cannabis worth $77 million belonging to a Native American owned company doing research with American States University. The motion, filed on Tuesday in the California Eastern District, claimed the crops were “illegal at every level” and that the complaint should be dismissed without leave to amend. 

“For the fourth time, Plaintiffs have failed to plead facts as opposed to conclusions in support of their causes of action,” the motion stated. The plaintiffs filed a third amended complaint near the end of July to address Judge Kimberly Mueller’’s ruling that they did not satisfy the standards for Rule 8 and some of the defendants should have immunity. The defendants allege that the recently filed complaint should allow members of the board immunity, but it does not. 

“The individual Board members are absolutely immune from liability as is County Counsel Sakata, who is sued for allegedly providing false information to the Board … this is a legislative function by an executive branch officer for which she is immune,” the motion states. 

Free Spirit Organics, NAC in its third complaint contested county ordinance 4497, which addresses the growth of cannabis products. They claimed the crop was illegally taken from its 26.19-acre plot of land. Tuesday’s motion says that although the plaintiff’s claim the THC levels in their crop were tested and determined to be below .3 percent and that the crop was legal hemp, that the ordinance prohibited the cultivation of industrial hemp. The defendants further alleged the county ordinance is not preempted by state or federal law. 

The defendants also argued that the plaintiffs are not research organizations but are commercial growers, and American States University is not an institute of higher learning, which the plaintiffs claimed.

The plaintiffs in the case include Free Spirit Organics, NAC; American States University; HRM Farms; Cannabis Science, Inc; and Winnemucca Shoshoni, MBS. They are represented by the Law Offices of Joseph Salama, The Law Office of Ronda Baldwin-Kennedy, and Richard Glenn Elie. In early July an additional petitioner was dismissed from the lawsuit after the judge ruled that S.G. Farms, as a consultant, did not incur sufficient losses because of the seizure. The defendants are represented by Cole Huber. 

A hearing on the Motion to Dismiss will be held on September 25th.