An Omnibus Rule 8 hearing was held on July 29 at 9 a.m. in Preston regarding charges against Fifth Sun Gardens, which is owned and operated by Luis Hummel of rural Lanesboro. Fifth Sun Gardens has operated as an industrial hemp farm, under a pilot program through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
The charges, which include a misdemeanor and two felonies, resulted from a March 15 traffic stop. Products seized in that stop included hemp wax and vape tips, which were produced by Fifth Sun Gardens. The products were later tested for THC content. According to Fillmore County Attorney Brett Corson, “The big thing is that the wax substance and the vape tips were in excess of legal limits, so they’re not considered hemp,” but would be legally considered recreational marijuana products. Minnesota law allows industrial hemp products to have up to 0.3% THC content, but the products tested at over 3%. Charges were filed on June 12.
As a result of the charges, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture has revoked the license allowing Fifth Sun Gardens to grow and market industrial hemp. Hummel has previously estimated his crop’s value at around $3 million. Corson stated that the July 29 hearing is a “Rule 8 hearing,” and will be an opportunity for Hummel and his attorney to determine how to proceed regarding the charges. If convicted, the misdemeanor carries a maximum of up to one year in jail and a fine of $3,000, while the felonies each carry a maximum of up to five years in jail and a $10,000 fine.
During the July 29 hearing, Judge Matthew Opat asked Hummel and his attorney, Susan Johnson, if they wish to contest the charges, and they indicated they did, so a contested omnibus hearing will be held on October 7 at 1 p.m. Regarding that hearing, Johnson stated that she and her client intend to bring up several issues regarding the testing procedures for hemp products, and she also stated, “The rules are constantly changing…it’s really a dynamic area of law” regarding hemp growing and marketing. She added, “There’s a question of what’s applicable to Mr. Hummel.”
Johnson also asked the court to set aside the previously stipulated conditions of his release. She stated that Hummel is a well-known member of the community, and a member of the Chamber of Commerce. She added that there are no public safety concerns related to Hummel, and that the search conducted at his property found no weapons, and nothing that was out of compliance with applicable laws.
County Attorney Corson asked the judge to leave the conditions in place, arguing that Hummel had knowingly exceeded the THC levels in his crop and resulting products, and that he has not complied with Minnesota Department of Agriculture expectations that he destroy his crop and cease growing hemp. He also pointed out that Hummel has only lived in the area for around two years, and owns only about one acre of land in rural Lanesboro. Corson called the conditions of release “very reasonable,” and asked the judge to consider ordering a drug test of Hummel before he departed the courthouse. Judge Opat said the conditions of release would remain unchanged, and that with random drug testing being one of the conditions, he ordered a drug test to be completed immediately following the hearing. When contacted by the Fillmore County Journal, Hummel and his attorney declined to comment for this article.