Oregon Company Sues Counties for $2.5 Million After Hemp Seizure

An Oregon hemp business alleged in a complaint against two Oregon counties that over 5,000 pounds of legal hemp were taken from its warehouse and destroyed in a police search on April 22. The business claims the counties violated civil rights and due process saying although the police were advised the material was legal hemp and not marijuana, it was treated like marijuana.

Oregonized Hemp Co LLC, (OHC) represented by Matthew Hicks and Josephine County Legal Counsel, and its owner Justin Pits, represented by Day Law, filed the complaint against Josephine and Jackson Counties in Oregon and individuals working at the sheriff’s departments.  The plaintiffs say they were harmed in the amount of $2.5 million.

Industrial hemp is defined in federal and Oregon law, according to the court document, as a strain of Cannabis sativa, and includes all seeds or parts of the plant that have an average tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of less than 0.3 percent; a higher concentration is called marijuana. The two items are subject to different laws and regulations, marijuana is legal in Oregon but “highly regulated” and is federally illegal. 

“Businesses such as OHC that grow, cultivate, harvest, process and sell industrial hemp do so knowing that all of their plant material (i.e. industrial hemp) must maintain a tetrahydrocannabinol concentration below 0.3 percent, otherwise said businesses (like OHC) could be in violation of state and federal law.  Accordingly, OHC regularly tests its industrial hemp to insure its plant material is below the level of tetrahydrocannabinol concentration required by state and federal law,” the complaint claims.

The complaint alleges that Oregonized Hemp Company had all the necessary licenses and registrations required by the Oregon Department of Agriculture to grow and process industrial hemp. In October 2019 the fire marshall for the city Grants Pass said the plaintiffs could not store hemp or “fibrous material” in the building in Grants Pass, giving them 30 days to move the hemp. They complied, moving it to a greenhouse leased by Panther Greenhouse.

Police executed a search warrant for the greenhouse location on April 22. The plaintiffs allege that the warrant was “facially invalid.” The warrant authorized the seizure of marijuana, including processed marijuana, marijuana plants, and concentrate oils, as well as items related to their possession, manufacture, or delivery. It did not, according to the complaint, authorize the seizure of industrial hemp.

“Defendants, and in particular Josephine County, hold particular animosity towards Plaintiffs, and over the years have engaged in a pattern and practice of unequal treatment intended to harass and intimidate Plaintiffs, and in particular Pitts,” the complaint alleged. They say the raid was intentional and was “for the purpose of exercising dominion.” The plaintiffs claimed their rights to due process were violated, and they were not given notice or an opportunity to defend themselves.