On Jan. 8, a federal court issued a stay of discovery in Apothio LLC’s lawsuit against Kern County, Calif., the Kern County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and multiple individuals for allegedly destroying 500 acres of hemp in 2019. The stay of discovery means that both the plaintiff and defendants will stop the process of obtaining evidence to prove their case.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jennifer Thurston wrote in a Jan. 8 filing for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California that a separate criminal case against Apothio founder and managing partner Trent Jones for related criminal misdemeanor charges “will likely involve an overlap of witnesses and documentary evidence… .” For that reason and other legal factors, she wrote that the discovery process of information-gathering wouldn’t need to be rehashed in both criminal and civil court.
The criminal charge against Jones stems back to that day in 2019 when the defendants allegedly destroyed Apothio’s crop. While Jones says it was hemp, the defendants claim it was marijuana.
In October 2020, Jones “was arraigned for criminal misdemeanor charges related to the facts of this case,” according to the judge’s order. “… Specifically, the charges are for the illegal cultivation and sale of marijuana.”
In June 2020, KCSO and CDFW filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit in the district court. Referring to hemp as “marijuana” in their motions, the defendants’ attorneys refer to the product as “contraband” and use this characterization to justify the hemp’s destruction.
In addition, according to Law360, “Judge Thurston noted that a ‘preliminary peek’ at the two pending bids to ax Apothio’s claims made it clear that the motions could be decided without additional discovery, seeming to find it likely both motions will be granted.”
The judge wrote that the seized crop was beyond the legal-hemp THC threshold of 0.3%. “As Defendants assert, law enforcement’s testing found Apothio’s marijuana plants were contraband, and if true, Plaintiff can have no property interest in such contraband,” the order states.