A simple traffic stop turned into a legal battle between 5th Sun Gardens, LLC, of Lanesboro, and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture over the license of the operation and has since resulted in criminal charges against the owner.
5th Sun Gardens is an industrial hemp farm that’s licensed to grow the product under a pilot program run by the MDA. A May 1 letter informed 5th Sun Garden and its owner, Luis Hummel, that the license to grow hemp was being revoked because of a recent traffic stop.
Hummel filed a lawsuit with his attorney, Jason Terasek, because he didn’t have any access to the details of the traffic stop and why Hummel’s license was being revoked. Hummel told his attorney that his crop is worth approximately $3 million.
However, the details of what happened during the traffic stop are no longer unclear.
A Fillmore County criminal complaint was filed in Fillmore County District Court June 12 against Hummel, charging him with two drug-related felonies and one gross misdemeanor. The charges are the result of a mid-March traffic stop in Fillmore County near Ostrander.
The criminal complaint stated that on March 15, Fillmore County sheriff’s deputy Alex Hartley made a traffic stop, at which the driver “identified himself as Nathan Cole, but was later determined to be Brandon Cole. While the subject was looking for his license and proof of insurance (which was never found), deputy Hartley could smell an odor that was consistent with marijuana.”
At that point, deputy Hartley asked how much marijuana was in the vehicle. The complaint stated that “Mr. Cole told the deputy he had CBD hemp and other CBD hemp products (which included marijuana wax, also known as “dabs” or “vape tips”) that he was transporting for 5th Sun Gardens out of Lanesboro. Hartley then seized the containers of marijuana plant-related products.”
Fillmore County Sheriff’s Office investigator Jesse Grabau then took the items to Legend Technical Services to test the amount of THC in the product. THC is the psychoactive chemical in marijuana that provides the high that abusers crave. Smoking industrial hemp doesn’t make a person high. Minnesota law says industrial hemp is legal when it’s no more than 0.3 percent in THC on a dry weight basis. Hummel was licensed by the MDA to both grow and process industrial hemp. The CBD Oil is a naturally-occurring compound found in the resinous hemp flower.
The test results came in on March 20. Grabau saw that the marijuana wax tested at 3.6 percent THC, well in excess of the legal limit. Additionally, the vape tip with marijuana wax tested at 3.11 percent THC, also well outside the limits. Grabau sent the information on to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, which revoked Hummel’s license to grow industrial hemp because he’d violated the terms of the agreement signed with MDA.
Hummel admitted during a conversation with Grabau on April 17 that Cole is a distributor for him because he attends multiple festivals, according to the complaint. Hummel admitted that the products seized in the traffic stop belonged to him, the complaint noted. Hummel also told Grabau that the “dab tips” were legal last year but not so in 2019.
Hummel admitted when he concentrates his products, the THC level goes from 0.3 percent up to 1 or 2 percent, stated the complaint. Hummel says people buy his products because they make it “just like regular cannabis to entice the buyer, but they take a lot of the psychoactive effects out of it,” read the complaint.
Grabau also interviewed Cole, the driver of the vehicle during the traffic stop. Cole told the Fillmore County investigator that Hummel “told him the ingestible CBD items were not legal,” stated the complaint. Cole allegedly told him the arrangement included him not paying Hummel for the items up front, but rather he would come up with the total payment he owed Hummel after everything was sold.
Minnesota state statute allows the Department of Agriculture to grow industrial hemp under an agricultural pilot program. A May 16 letter from ag department counsel Doug Spanier to Hummel’s attorney stated that “Your client was acting under the MDA’s authority and as part of a memorandum of understanding entered into with the MDA.” He added that paragraph 2C states “your client acknowledges that any action, either intentional or not, that is contrary to the laws, regulations, or terms of the MOU, either known or unknown, falls outside the relationship of the pilot participant and the MDA.”
The letter also cites paragraph 2(E) of the memorandum of understanding as another legal reason for pulling the license. It says Hummel signed the agreement, which says that MDA has “ultimate discretion with respect to which pilot participants are included in the MDA pilot program and agreed that the MDA can de-register a site used to store, cultivate, or process industrial hemp at any time and for any reason.”
The MOU also says that “MDA can confiscate the hemp seed of a pilot program participant if he/she operated in violation of the pilot program or any other state and federal laws.”
Hummel faces a maximum penalty of five years in jail and a $10,000 fine for each of the felonies. He also faces an additional one year in jail and a $3,000 fine for the gross misdemeanor.