A locally registered hemp researcher has reportedly filed a $1 billion claim against Kern County over what he says was the “illegal and unlawful taking” of close to 500 acres of plants the sheriff’s office said were actually marijuana.
In the claim, Indiana-based Apothio LLC and its top executive, former chiropractor Trent Jones, cited California statutes allowing researchers to possess hemp, according to images displayed online by local TV station KGET-TV.
The claim is the first step in a process that, if denied by the county, would likely set the stage for a lawsuit.
County and sheriff’s office officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment Friday afternoon. Neither did Jones or two of his local associates.
Jones has told The Californian that Apothio contracted local farmers to grow about 500 acres of hemp near Arvin. He acknowledged some of his crop tested above the federal limit of 0.3 percent THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
He said he planned to destroy any plants that test “hot,” meaning above the legal threshold for THC. But he also emphasized that as a qualified business person with a research contract with Cerro Coso Community College in Ridgecrest, he was not legally obligated to test the crop, much less destroy it.
A Southern California sheriff’s department made a bust on what its owners had previously presented as a hemp field, uncovering 10 million marijuana plants with “an estimated value of over $1 billion.” On October 25, law enforcement descended on the fields whose growers had claimed to be growing non-psychoactive hemp. They were, in fact, raising marijuana plants that clocked in at over the .3 percent THC content allowed under California law.
The investigation was catalyzed by a tip sent to the Kern County Sheriff’s Office about 11 fields sprawling out over 459 acres in the small town of Arvin. An investigation was launched in collaboration with the FBI and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife that resulted in the October 25 search warrants.
“Preliminary testing showed the levels of THC in these fields were well over the legal limit for industrial hemp production and were in fact cannabis,” announced the Kern County Sheriff’s Office in a Facebook post. “The investigation is ongoing.”
California law does allow for THC content over .3 percent if the hemp is being grown for research purposes.
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