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.
A company that has been described as the “Uber Eats for cannabis” hopes to deliver marijuana products to a market of 13 million people from a base in California City.
That company, Driven Deliveries Inc., is part of an influx of marijuana businesses that have received permits from the California City City Council to deliver cannabis throughout the region.
A total of 10 companies were granted permits for delivery. Two companies, Driven Deliveries and Royal Apothecary, were also granted a permit to open a storefront to sell cannabis products within California City as well as make deliveries.
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A confederation of local cannabis dispensaries has sued Kern County in federal court, alleging its ban on medical marijuana shops violates the group’s constitutional rights.
The lawsuit alleges the county’s enforcement of the ban violates the 14th Amendment, which gives citizens the right to due process.
“(The) Kern County board of supervisors are (sic) using department heads to commit unlawful closures and seizure of property at gunpoint without due process of law or equal protection under the law,” said Attorney Abraham Labbad, who said he is representing 10 Kern County dispensaries.
Special meeting held by Kern County Board of Planning Supervisors on Monday resulted in more cannabis dispensaries forced to close by end of the month. The Plum Tree Collective and Tanner Vest, both located in Rosamond, have been given orders to shut their doors by March 28. District 2 Supervisor Zack Scrivner put forth the proposal for the quick shutdown. “With the health and safety impacts on the Rosamond community, I am not going to uphold this appeal. In fact, I am going to make a motion that we require that this dispensary closes in 10 days from today,” Scrivner said.