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Lanesboro hemp farmer reaches deal with state, drops federal case

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Luis Hummel

A Lanesboro hemp farmer’s federal lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Agriculture ended earlier this month when he filed a motion to dismiss the case after reaching a settlement.

Luis Hummel and his company, 5th Sun Gardens LLC, filed a civil suit in U.S. District Court of Minnesota on May 30 against the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, its commissioner and three named officials as well as two unnamed individuals.

On Feb. 3, Hummel, through attorney Jason Tarasek, filed a motion to dismiss the case after reaching an out-of-court settlement with the MDA.

"The great thing about this agreement is that it gives Luis the opportunity to sell his product and recoup his substantial investment in his crop without having to continue to fight in federal court and pay attorneys fees to fund that fight," Tarasek said.

According to the settlement, Hummel will not seek to recover attorney fees and has waived his right to a hearing on his license revocation. He also agreed that he will not apply for a Minnesota Industrial Hemp License in 2020 or anytime after. Growing hemp again was something Hummel was willing to give up, according to Tarasek.

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"He has been traumatized by the experience," Tarasek said of the decision. "He was trying to play by the rules and instead he was caught in the middle of a regulatory quagmire and is now being treated like a criminal."

Hummel was allowed to have the 2019 hemp crop he harvested processed, but he was required to use a licensed processor and provide the state agency with the name of the processor.

Before the hemp was allowed to be processed, it had to pass the MDA’s THC test, and MDA had to issue a fit-for-commerce certificate. Both of those criteria were met, Tarasek said in a post on 5th Sun Gardens’ Facebook page.

The product, "Gooey Louie," was found to have a total potential THC of 0.353%. MDA ruled that it was acceptable for sale as the pilot program limit is less than 0.4 percent, according to Minnesota Department of Agriculture senior communications officer Allen Sommerfeld.

The MDA agreed to allow someone else to grow hemp on land owned by Hummel so long as that person meets all the licensing requirements.

Before the settlement was reached, portions of it had already been dismissed after the Department of Agriculture filed a motion in June 21. A hearing was held in September on the matter. On Jan. 2, Judge Patrick J. Schiltz granted part of the dismissal request and denied another part. It was that January decision that spurred the settlement, according to Tarasek who said the ruling essentially handed Hummel a victory.

"To the state’s credit, they recognized that because the court concluded that Luis had a protected property interest in a hemp license that they were obligated to provide him with a process of some sort," Tarasek said. "We crafted something that was in the best interest of everyone because they knew our next step would be to ask the court to declare a total victory for us."

Tarasek said he sees Hummel’s case having a larger impact than on just Hummel.

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"We feel vindicated, and we are hopeful that the state will be more willing to work with the next farmer who accidentally runs afoul of vague and ever changing regulations. This protects every hemp farmer in the state now," Tarasek said. "Without this court order, the MDA could pull the license of any hemp farmer in the state for any reason and wouldn’t have to afford that hemp farmer due process, but now Luis has protected their constitutional rights by being the first one to take on the Minnesota Department of Agriculture."

Hummel still faces criminal charges in Fillmore County District Court of fifth-degree drug sales, felony possession of a controlled substance and gross misdemeanor fifth-degree drug possession.

Judge Matthew Opat ruled Feb. 7 that the case would continue and denied Hummel’s motion to dismiss. In his ruling, Opat found that it's "fair and reasonable for the defendant to stand trial in this matter".

During a contested omnibus hearing in December, the court heard testimony from members of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Fillmore County Sheriff's Office and the chemist who tested Hummel's products that came back over the legal limit.

A next date in that case has not yet been scheduled.

Defense for Lanesboro hemp farmer files motion to dismiss the case

Hemp case reveals shortfalls in regulation, enforcement

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