A locally registered hemp researcher has reportedly filed a $1 billion claim against Kern County over what he says was the "illegal and unlawful taking" of close to 500 acres of plants the sheriff's office said were actually marijuana.

In the claim, Indiana-based Apothio LLC and its top executive, former chiropractor Trent Jones, cited California statutes allowing researchers to possess hemp, according to images displayed online by local TV station KGET-TV.

The claim is the first step in a process that, if denied by the county, would likely set the stage for a lawsuit.

County and sheriff's office officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment Friday afternoon. Neither did Jones or two of his local associates.

Jones has told The Californian that Apothio contracted local farmers to grow about 500 acres of hemp near Arvin. He acknowledged some of his crop tested above the federal limit of 0.3 percent THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

He said he planned to destroy any plants that test "hot," meaning above the legal threshold for THC. But he also emphasized that as a qualified business person with a research contract with Cerro Coso Community College in Ridgecrest, he was not legally obligated to test the crop, much less destroy it.

Industry lawyers say state and federal guidelines permit individuals and companies working with an institute of higher education to possess, but not sell or process, hemp that tests above the federal limit. They add, however, that the research exemption — any other type of hemp grower would have no recourse but to destroy hot hemp — is essentially a legal loophole that may eventually have to be addressed by the state Legislature.

The Kern County Sheriff's Office reported Oct. 31 it had eradicated more than 459 acres of purported hemp that was actually marijuana in the Arvin area. It valued the crop, spread across 11 fields containing an estimated 10 million plants, at more than $1 billion.

Samples of the destroyed plants measured "well above" the 0.3 percent THC limit, according to a KCSO news release. Sources have told the Californian some of the samples tested as high as 7 percent.

A recent lawsuit filed by former business associates of Jones accuses Apothio of knowingly cultivating hot hemp. It says the company locked the former business associates out of a processing facility in Arvin after they confronted him about test results they had gathered without his permission.

Hemp has become highly valued in recent years as consumers embrace the cure-all known as cannabidiol, or CBD, which comes from the hemp plant.

No other county in the state has more registered hemp acreage than Kern. But because of concerns about the research loophole, the county ag commissioner said he will no longer register hemp fields for research purposes.

John Cox can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter: @TheThirdGraf. Sign up at Bakersfield.com for free newsletters about local business.

(15) comments

Nevermind

Do you know what 7% THC levels do to you when inhaled? Not much except you go back to the dealer and say, "Did you sell me Oregano?" A billion dollars worth? Bunk paraquat containing 1973 weed would get you higher. Lol

R1313

With California trying to phase out Oil, Kern county would be an ideal place to grow and process hemp.

Biofuel sounds like it would be a pretty good fit.

It would definitely create and save jobs.

rckozy

$2,000,000 dollars an acre I would suspect all the farmers would be growing soon. Yeah that comes to 2 million dollars an acre.

Fram Smith

What are our law enforcement priorities here in Kern County ? Is it in the best interest of the people of Kern County to drive the legal hemp industry out of the county forever? Should the KCSD be given better instructions by the Kern County Board of Supervisors , on perceived violations of the laws in regard to hemp cultivation ? Did the KCSD get a court order to legally take someone else's property ? If the KCSD did not get legal authority to drive an Arvin hemp farmer into bankruptcy , we taxpayers of Kern County will be paying millions to settle a lawsuit. We are in the middle of a synthetic opioid and homeless crisis , and the KCSD thinks spending thousands of dollars and hundreds of manhours on destroying a new multiple billion dollar industry is the best use of limited resources? We are truely our own worst enemy.

coolrayfruge1959

If laws enforcement hardline on the Tobacco Industry as they are Marijuana growers. There would be a lot less people dying from cancer each year from cigarettes. You made a great point we have a problem with opium, homelessness and our failing economy. And they're destroying a 1 billion dollar crop that could actually help the economy if it was taxed or was simply grown to help pay off the states debts and revive the economy through sales. It gets me . I take a lot of prescription pills for each of my physical ailments . That one smoke of a joint could take care of.

GetReal2

One BILLION dollar claim? The only person with worse judgment than a scientist expecting to legally research marijuana/ hemp/ whatever in Kern County, is one who thinks anything not watered by POM could be worth that much.

Thomas Murphy

Community colleges are not institutes of higher education. This is probably one of the many why one reasons why local law enforcement and the FBI felt confident in conducting the serizure.

coolrayfruge1959

I knew a lot of people who got High in collage, who graduated with Degrees. FBI . sigh. Their still enforce a law that has been proven was based on lies and false information. Why are they going after a plant that actually proven to help people and not the plant that has actually killed billions over the years. why aren't they cracking down on them. They claim they are concern about our healthy and our children's health. yet reports have that many children die from second hand smoke from tobacco products. no one has ever died from just smoking marijuana. only when it s laced with something else. And I don't think anyone should be vaping pure THC. That's like snorting pure uncut cocaine. which I don't suggest doing either.

thatryguy

Here’s how this plays out:

County denies claim

Case goes to court in LA, or Tulare county

County found liable for destruction of property

Kern County loses millions of dollars

Kern County re-elects Youngblood because it’s full of slack-jawed yokels who don’t know any better

GetReal2

So you’re saying the County should approve the Billion claim because otherwise they will lose millions? Guess I’m slacked jawed.

The Jackal

The Sheriff doesn't know the law regarding cannabis or hemp and he doesn't care. Here in Kern they do whatever they want because they think they're above the law and engage in criminal racketeering and conspiracy.

No Youngblood is probably the first to ever get a billion dollar lawsuit slapped on Kern County. Good job Donny. You got better things to do.

All Star

Why don't you go teach them the law Abbasi?

All Star

So the researcher "reportedly" filed a claim? Who reportedly said this? So it may not even be true? Will TBC update and/or edit this story when more facts come out?

WorriedAboutSafety

what the heck? Youngblood better not have exposed the ken county treasury to big bucks ....

Moardeeb

Oh Kern County. Such prudes! So afraid someone might get high! Then go home and drink your six packs!

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