On February 7, District Court Judge Matthew Opat issued a ruling on a motion by Luis Miguel Hummel. Hummel, owner and operator of 5th Sun Gardens, of rural Lanesboro, is facing misdemeanor and felony charges related to hemp products that tested too high in delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content. Judge Opat ruled that “Defendant’s motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of probable cause is denied.”
The charges stem from a March 2019 traffic (speeding) stop near Ostrander. Although Hummel was not in the vehicle that was involved in the traffic stop, the officer involved (Deputy Alex Hartley) noticed a smell consistent with marijuana. The driver, Brandon Cole, said the smell was due to 5th Sun Gardens hemp products that were being transported for sale. Deputy Hartley called for instructions, and sent pictures of the products he was shown. Deputy Hartley was then directed by Fillmore County narcotics investigator Jesse Grabau to seize the hemp products.
5th Sun Gardens has operated under the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Industrial Hemp Pilot Program. It is estimated that around 380 hemp growers throughout Minnesota are currently participating in the pilot program, and that number has been rapidly increasing for several years. The various hemp products seized, which included hemp dabs and vape tips, were tested for THC content. State law stipulates that hemp products must be no higher than 0.3% THC. Anything higher is considered a controlled substance. The hemp dabs (a wax-like product) tested at 3.5%, and the vape tips (liquid) tested at 3.11%.
In explaining the charges, County Attorney Brett Corson stated, “As the memo explains, you start with hemp, and I don’t think there’s any dispute that the underlying plant itself was hemp. But then what happened is, through some chemical extraction processes,… they extract the THC out of that hemp… and then as a result of that, some substances were created, a wax-like substance, and then was used for these vape tips… So even though it’s derived from hemp, and you’ve concentrated it to this level where it’s far in excess of the legal limit, it’s actually marijuana.”
Hummel has been charged with three counts: Drugs, Fifth Degree, Sale; Possession of a Controlled Substance; and Drugs, Fifth Degree, Possession. Judge Opat’s memorandum stated, in part, “The State asserts that there is sufficient probable cause to find that it is fair and reasonable to have Defendant stand trial for both the sale and possession charges against him. Based upon the testimony and evidence received by the Court, the Court finds that there is probable cause and that the State possesses substantial evidence that would be admissible at trial that would justify denial of a motion for a directed verdict of acquittal of the charges filed.” The case is expected to proceed. Hummel did not immediately respond to a request for comment. If convicted, Hummel could be declared ineligible to produce hemp for 10 years, in addition to other penalties.