The criminal case against Minnesota hemp farmer Luis “Lulu Magoo” Hummel was recently dismissed after one or more witnesses became unavailable to testify on behalf of the state.
Hummel had been charged with felony fifth-degree drug sales, felony possession of a controlled substance and gross misdemeanor fifth-degree drug possession. These charges were reportedly filed in Fillmore County District Court in June 2019 in response to an incident that occurred March 2019.
The incident involved a law enforcement officer seizing hemp products at a traffic stop. These products were made from plants on Hummel’s farm, and the products reportedly tested above the 0.3% limit for THC.
THC is the compound in cannabis that can, with a great enough concentration, get people high. Cannabis plants that contain more than 0.3% THC are considered marijuana, a Schedule 1 drug. However, cannabis plants that contain 0.3% THC or less are considered hemp and are legal. Hemp plants do not contain enough THC to get someone high.
How the events unfolded at the traffic stop
According to Agweek, Deputy Alex Hartley of the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Office pulled over a speeding vehicle on March 15, 2019. He reportedly smelled what he thought to be marijuana as he approached the car.
The driver of the vehicle reportedly informed Hartley that the smell came from legal CBD products, which the driver showed the deputy. Each of the products were labeled with Hummel’s business, 5th Sun Gardens. The driver also showed the deputy documentation from the Department of Agriculture that identified the products as hemp and listed where they had been tested for compliant THC content.
However, Hartley had reportedly never received training regarding hemp, and to him, the products appeared to be marijuana. He sent photos of the products to Fillmore County’s narcotics investigator who advised him to confiscate them.
All had appeared to be in order
According to Agweek, the confiscated products were made from hemp Hummel was licensed by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) to sell. Reportedly, Hummel had also been granted six Fit for Commerce certificates in 2018 — one for each strain of hemp that passed a THC threshold test. The products from Hummel’s farm that tested above the allowed threshold reportedly were produced in that same year.
“We believe that Mr. Hummel’s hemp-based products were legal under the statutes that existed at the time of the charges against him,” Susan Johnson told Agweek. Johnson is the attorney who represented Hummel in the case.
“Mr. Hummel was duly licensed as a grower and a processor and his 2018 crop was approved by the MDA,” she added.
Why the trial was dismissed
The jury trial was originally set to occur in April 2020. However, it was reportedly rescheduled numerous times due to the pandemic. According to Agweek, Fillmore County recently dismissed the charges against Hummel due to a lack of available witnesses.
Fillmore County Attorney Brett Corson reportedly wrote in the Dec. 4 notice of dismissal that “essential witnesses will be unavailable to testify at trial.”
“With the case being delayed for quite some time, (some witnesses) are just no longer available,” he added. “That makes it pretty difficult to proceed to trial, so that’s really what it came down to.”
One witness has reportedly changed jobs, while another key witness could no longer be reached. Corson told Agweek that the pandemic was ultimately to blame.
“We would have tried this case and been done with it before these issues with the witnesses came up,” he reportedly said. “From my perspective, I think it was a pretty straightforward case.”
The case sparked changes
This case won’t be tried in court, but it is still noteworthy. Corson reportedly said that this case helped other Minnesota county attorneys navigate the legality and testing of hemp products in their counties, and the case encouraged law enforcement to get involved with discussions about revisions to hemp laws.
“The issue has been flushed out a lot better,” he said.
Johnson told Agweek that her client was “caught up in a situation where the law was inchoate.”
“The legislature enacted at least two revisions relating to industrial hemp during the pendency of Mr. Hummel’s criminal case,” she said. “Further, in 2019, the legislature directed the Commissioner of Agriculture and the Commissioners of Public Safety and Health to develop a framework for regulating the possession and use of THC resulting from the processing of hemp after Mr. Hummel was charged with possession and sale of controlled products.”