A southeastern Minnesota hemp farmer faces felony charges after the psychoactive ingredients found in his products were found to be about 10 to 12 times higher than the legal limit.
Luis Hummel started growing hemp near Lanesboro in March 2018 to turn into cannabidiol, or CBD, products, from salve to lip balm to bath bombs. He had his license renewed earlier this year by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
But in May, the department revoked his license, telling him that law enforcement had pulled over one of his distributors and found that his CBD products had higher levels of THC — the psychoactive part of cannabis — than the 0.3% allowed. Hummel said he wasn’t told the specific THC levels of his products.
As part of his losing his license, Hummel was ordered to destroy his crops, which he valued at more than $3 million.
Hummel filed a federal lawsuit against the state to keep his license and crops. He was only the second hemp grower in the state to lose his license.
“I don’t know why they’re coming after me,” Hummel said at the time.
In charges filed last week, Fillmore County Attorney Brett Corson filled in the details.
On March 15, a Fillmore County sheriff’s deputy stopped a man whose car interior smelled like marijuana, according to the criminal charges. That man said he was selling CBD products on behalf of Hummel and his company, 5th Sun Gardens. Those products were seized and tested, and they were found to have THC levels from 3.1 to 3.6%.
A regular marijuana joint has THC levels of about 12 to 15%.
When contacted by a Fillmore County sheriff’s investigator, Hummel told him that the CBD products were his and that when he concentrated the oil, the THC levels can go from 0.3% to 2%, according to the criminal complaint.
He was charged with a fifth-degree drug sale and possession of a controlled substance, both felonies, and fifth-degree drug possession, a gross misdemeanor.
Hummel declined to comment for this story. His attorney, Jason Tarasek, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Hemp farming is booming in Minnesota. In 2016, the state licensed six growers who planted 38 acres of hemp. Those numbers have risen this year to 385 hemp farmers approved to plant 11,045 acres.
Hummel told the Star Tribune earlier this month that each time the agriculture department tested his hemp crops they were found to be under the legal limit.
He said he sends his hemp to Colorado for processing into his CBD products. During processing, it’s possible for THC levels to increase, said Paul Johnson, president of the Minnesota Hemp Farmers & Manufacturers Association.
The state does not test CBD products for THC levels.
“It’s the processing part that is so unknown and so unregulated,” Johnson said.
While THC is considered a controlled substance, federal law exempts THC derived from hemp, according to Thomas Gallagher, a criminal defense attorney who is also on the board of the Minnesota chapter of NORML, which seeks to legalize marijuana.
Hummel has said he will not destroy his crop and would instead look to sell it to another buyer should his lawsuit against the state not prevail.