South Carolina hemp farmer sues state for wrongful arrest and crop destruction

A South Carolina hemp producer who was accused of growing hemp illegally has filed a lawsuit against the state agriculture commissioner and law enforcement.

John Pendarvis claims that it was illegal to arrest him and destroy his crops, according to the lawsuit he filed last month in a Dorchester County court against the South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture, the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.

According to the lawsuit, Pendarvis was licensed to grow hemp in May 2019. But due to weather conditions that spring, he couldn’t plant the fields reported, with acreage and GPS coordinates, to the South Carolina Department of Agriculture.

Pendarvis said he submitted an amendment to his application in August 2019, after communicating his cultivation issues with the state agriculture department.

In August, state agriculture officials reported the farmer to SLED, saying he was growing hemp illegally, and sent notice to Pendarvis that his amendment would not be processed and that his crop was in violation, according to Columbia newspaper The State.

SLED stated in an affidavit attached to Pendarvis’ arrest warrant that South Carolina agriculture officials noted “mature hemp plants growing on an unlicensed site” in Dorchester County in July 2019, a month before the farmer claimed he submitted an amendment.

The lawsuit lists unlawful arrest, assault and battery, abuse of process, defamation and negligence among its claims. The farmer is seeking damages for loss value of the destroyed crop, along with mental pain and suffering and other issues.