Mason County hemp operation ordered to cease

September 12, 2018 GMT

HUNTINGTON — U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers on Tuesday issued a temporary restraining order forcing a Mason County, West Virginia, hemp company to cease operations after federal prosecutors filed a lawsuit stating it has not complied with regulations imposed by a West Virginia pilot hemp program.

According to a motion made by U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart, federal prosecutors filed a preliminary injunction Tuesday against CAMO Hemp WV, operated by Matthew Mallory, and Grassy Run Farms, operated by Gary Kale and located in Mason County.

Chambers’ restraining order temporarily prevents the defendants from manufacturing, possessing and distributing hemp grown at the farm. It also states they must not destroy or alter the plants, or any evidence and records related to the grow operation, to preserve evidence in the case.

Because the order was filed ex parte, the defendants have not yet filed an answer to the complaint. A preliminary hearing on the allegations will be at 10 a.m. Sept. 17 in Huntington.

The West Virginia Industrial Hemp Development Act, under which the defendants are operating, OKs the production and distribution of industrial hemp in the state as long as its THC level does not surpass 0.3 percent, the current level allowed by federal law. According to its website, CAMO Hemp is dedicated to conducting ongoing research and investigating hemp resources to help create and develop new industrial opportunities in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The hemp it grows has a low concentration of THC and is harvested for cannabidiol oil and other industrial needs.

However, Stuart is arguing the operation has violated the U.S. Controlled Substances Act by transporting seeds over state lines and not properly protecting its crops from criminals.

According to the motion, CAMO Hemp is not registered with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office, but was issued a license under the West Virginia pilot hemp program.

The group indicated that seeds for the project would be purchased internationally with West Virginia Department of Agriculture approval, but seeds were allegedly instead bought in Kentucky and transported over state lines — cutting out oversight by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration — two days before an application was made for the research and marketing cultivation of industrial hemp.

Approximately 5,000 pounds of cannabis hemp seed was delivered to Grassy Run Farms in Mason County. Stuart said he has gathered information that the defendants also intend to harvest the Mason County plants and ship the seeds to Pennsylvania, which Stuart says is illegal.

An application with the West Virginia Department of Agriculture also indicated security measures — including fences, cameras, gates and signage indicating the operation lacked THC — would be installed at the grow site, but they have not, Stuart alleged.

Jennifer Smith, assistant director with the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, said the agency had no comment.

Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.