Hemp Litigation: Does Qualified Immunity Protect Law Enforcement Who Wrongly Destroy Hemp?
Earlier this fall, several news outlets reported on a lawsuit alleging that federal and state law enforcement agencies in California wrongfully destroyed a hemp grow worth more than $3 million. (See here, and here). The case, Agro Dynamics, LLC v. DEA, et al., was filed in the federal district court for the Southern District of California. Along with the DEA, the defendants include San Diego County and various federal and state law enforcement personnel, whom the plaintiffs seek to hold personally liable for the destruction of the hemp.
Recently, San Diego County and its officers filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit as against them, in part under the doctrine of qualified immunity. Before discussing qualified immunity, a brief review of the allegations will be helpful.
Plaintiff alleges that it obtained a registration from the County for the legal cultivation of hemp in August 2019, several months after enactment of the 2018 Farm Bill. Relying on its permit, Plaintiff expended considerable time and effort to plant approximately 3,000 hemp plants, that according to laboratory testing had THC content of less than .3%.
In September 2019, a DEA agent conducted aerial reconnaissance in support of marijuana eradication operations and observed what