Apothio Sues Kern County, Calif., for Alleged Government Destruction of 500 Acres of Hemp
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Apothio Sues Kern County, Calif., for Alleged Government Destruction of 500 Acres of Hemp

The plaintiffs say county and state officials’ actions cost them more than $1 billion in damages and that they are legally permitted to grow hemp above 0.3% THC.

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April 13, 2020

A hemp company has filed a lawsuit against Kern County, Calif., and other individuals and government agencies for allegedly destroying a 500-acre hemp crop.

Apothio LLC, a vertically integrated hemp business, has sued Kern County, the Kern County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and multiple individuals, according to the lawsuit filed April 10 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.

The plaintiff claims that, beginning in late October 2019, representatives of KSCO and CDFW bulldozed and then buried about 17 million hemp plants that the plaintiff estimates were worth more than $1 billion, according to the civil complaint.

RELATED: Federal Lawsuit Seeks to Halt Kern County Closure of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries

The alleged destruction was among “the largest wholesale destructions of personal property by government entities in the history of the United States,” the plaintiff alleges in the suit.

Because Apothio is an established agricultural research institution (EARI), it was “expressly permitted to grow and possess plants that contain more than 0.3% THC and is also exempt from certain testing requirements applicable to other hemp growers,” the plaintiff said in the suit.

The 0.3% THC limit is outlined in federal law under the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill).

In California, the University of California has called attention to its status as an EARI as making it exempt from having to follow certain “sampling procedures for testing industrial hemp for THC content.” However, some local governments, in an attempt to temporarily halt hemp production, have called the definition of an EARI "vague.”

In a press release, Katherine Eskovitz, a lead partner with the firm representing the plaintiff, Roche Cyrulnik Freedman, stated: "Federal and California law now recognize the significance of, and encourage, hemp research and commercialization. But instead of supporting Apothio's valuable work—including its leading research on non-psychoactive CBD and other cannabinoids to treat epilepsy and other life-threatening conditions—the Defendants showed up without warning in full tactical gear and ordered the farmers to demolish all of the hemp crops.”

Eskovitz continued: “Apothio was transparent with government officials about its operations in Kern County, which it conducted by the book.”

The lawsuit states that Apothio is involved in “the development of hemp-based foods, nutraceuticals, and (eventually) pharmaceuticals.” It asserts that its seed variety, “Noah Strain,” is named after a boy who suffers from debilitating Dravet syndrome and that he was able to visit Disney World after taking Apothio’s CBD oil for a month.