A Grants Pass business is suing two Oregon counties for millions of dollars on allegations that police seized more than two tons of legal industrial hemp from his warehouse, then later destroyed the crop in what the owner alleges was a “cover up.”
Oregonized Hemp Co. LLC and business owner Justin Pitts filed a $2.5 million lawsuit against Josephine and Jackson counties Friday in U.S. District Court in Medford that alleges multiple civil rights and due process violations stemming from a police search last week at a greenhouse leased by the business in Williams.
A search warrant served April 22 at 1100 Panther Gulch Road in Williams sought processed marijuana, marijuana plants, marijuana concentrate oils and items related to the illegal possession, manufacture or delivery of marijuana, according to the lawsuit filed Friday by Pitts and his lawyer, Ross Day of Portland.
“The warrant did not authorize the seizure of industrial hemp,” the lawsuit states.
At least 5,000 pounds of plant material was seized from the greenhouse during the raid, which Pitts said involved Josephine County and Jackson County sheriff’s deputies.
Pitts claims all of the plant material in his greenhouse had THC concentrations at or below 0.3 percent, meaning it was all legally classified as industrial hemp, not marijuana.
Industrial hemp is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is legal in the U.S.
The lawsuit claims the plant material was destroyed the next day.
A supplemental order filed April 23 in Josephine County Circuit Court sought permission to destroy the plant material seized at the Williams greenhouse. Pitts and his lawyer claim law enforcement provided “knowingly false statements” in their request.
“Defendants made the false statements in the supplemental order in order to cover up the fact that defendants (the counties) had unlawfully taken OHC/Pitts’ property,” the lawsuit states.
The industrial hemp was valued at “not less than $2 million, or an amount to be proven at trial.”
The lawsuit lists multiple alleged violations to Pitts’ constitutional rights, including unlawful seizure under the Fourth Amendment, unlawful taking under the Fifth Amendment and multiple due process violations under the 14th Amendment, alleging the county law enforcement agencies “never provided [Pitts or his company] with any notice, any opportunity to defend themselves.”