Some of the most unexpected victims of the novel coronavirus pandemic have been those caught in legal disputes and criminal proceedings as the nation has been roiled with shutdowns, court closures and other extreme measures.
Among these struggling with the disease in a unique and agonizing way is Luis Hummel of Lanesboro, Minn. hemp farmer named Luis Hummel.
Hummel was arrested last year after his crop of industrial hemp was tested at higher than 0.3% THC, the legal limit for the substance which causes the mind-altering, intoxicating effects associated with marijuana and other cannabis products.
He currently faces felony possession charges, counts of drug sales and a gross misdemeanor for possession.
While some of the charges are only in the fifth degree, a felony conviction would be nothing to scoff at, and Hummel’s case could prove influential for thousands of hemp farmers in Minnesota and the U.S. more generally who worry about possible fallout from accidentally “hot” hemp.
“You can’t expect the private sector to follow laws that different enforcement agencies don’t agree on,” Hummel previously told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “That’s just common logic.”
According to AG Week, Hummel recently reached an out-of-court settlement with Minnesota’s agriculture department after he sued the department and its agents. Although he hoped this settlement would lead to a dismissal of his criminal charges, the case is ongoing.
Hummel’s court date, scheduled for April 20, has been indefinitely postponed as a result of the COVID-19, Fillmore County Attorney Brett Corson told AG Week.
“The word right now is no jury trials, until we figure out how to socially distance the jury, especially if it's a felony with 13 people,” Corson told the outlet. “How to keep them far enough part yet hear the case at the same time.”
Hummel previously stated his due process rights were being violated by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, an agency he claims has set arbitrary rules and guidelines for enforcing the THC content of hemp crops, which can be difficult to predict and monitor in the young and uncharted market for the plant.
AG Week reports Hummel has already offered to stop growing and selling industrial hemp in wake of the legal trouble, and will not apply for a new grower’s license next year if the government drops the criminal charges.
Hummel has told the Star Tribune his crop is worth $3 million dollars, and he plans to sell it whatever the courts say.
“I won’t destroy it,” he told the Tribune. “They’ll have to do it.”