California hemp producer sues Santa Cruz County for incorrect hemp sampling, leading to crop loss

Sungrown Organic Hemp, a hemp producer in California, says the county owes it $9.6 million for incorrectly sampling its 2019 hemp crop, which led to a false determination that the crop was marijuana.

The Watsonville farm filed the lawsuit on Tuesday in county court, claiming that the Santa Cruz County Department of Agriculture used faulty sampling that delayed the producer in harvesting the 15-acre crop until the issue was cleared up. By then 90% of the flower was spoiled due to moisture, according to the lawsuit.

After harvesting, Sungrown Organic Hemp recouped $300,000 of its $620,000 in costs, resulting in a net loss of $9.6 million.

Damages were calculated using the January 2020 Hemp Benchmarks Index, determining that the farm’s organic certification and biodynamic cultivation protocols would have yielded $675 per pound of hemp.

Sungrown Organic Hemp tested regularly throughout the season, with all tests showing a THC percentage below the 0.3% legal limit, according to the lawsuit, which included the producer’s certificate of analysis.

Tests from the county’s initial sampling resulted in a 0.44% THC concentration.

According to Jordan Levy, principal of Sungrown Organic Hemp, the county agriculture commissioner and another agent did the sampling incorrectly according to the state’s then-current regulations, defining sublateral branches as lateral branches, and taking less of the total plant and more of the concentrated tops of the plants than the protocol specified.

When the county tested 10 days later, county agents did the sampling correctly, according to Levy, and a county agent admitted that she took sublateral branches in the first test. The second test yielded a 0.3% THC concentration.

Levy claims that it is possible that other farmers in Santa Cruz County had false positives that season and destroyed their crops.

A trial date was not indicated.

One comment on “California hemp producer sues Santa Cruz County for incorrect hemp sampling, leading to crop loss
  1. Spence Hinkle on

    Does this really surprise anyone living in Santa Cruz County? County leadership has tolerated & excused complete incompetence in multiple County offices & departments for years rather than demanding a competent staff, at least. The County Planning Department is so disfunctional, they took over 5 years Just to approve an application that state law mandated they approve without discretion- even after that was made clear & the applicable state legislation was sited in our application. This costs my clients dearly as one died before he realized his million dollar gain &, because of this, the others were unnecessarily left with an over $300,000 tax bill. The reason is always the same: Santa Cruz County Officials feel exempt from any personal liability or being punished by leadership & nobody there seems to care if it ends up costing the County millions in liability- as it will in the case I just mentioned as well. Boy, that’s a hell of way to run the County! Incompetence isn’t a strong enough description of just how miserably County leadership has failed to oversee & discipline it’s staff- it really is staggering & costing the County perhaps even hundreds of millions which will bankrupt it because we are now investigating a class action suit potentially adding up to such an amount as well as Punitive Damages against each individual planner involved. Without holding these individuals personally responsible & threatening to take everything they own in court, they really don’t have any reason to competently perform under the current leadership & that simply displays their complete abdication of duty from leadership all the way down to individuals occupying offices there.

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