PRESTON, Minn. — The criminal case against Lanesboro, Minn., hemp farmer Luis "Lulu Magoo" Hummel has been dismissed.
The criminal complaint, which charged Hummel with felony fifth-degree drug sales, felony possession of a controlled substance and gross misdemeanor fifth-degree drug possession, was filed in Fillmore County District Court in June 2019. The jury trial was originally scheduled for April 2020, but was postponed multiple times because of the pandemic.
The charges came after products derived from hemp on Hummel's farm were seized in a March 2019 traffic stop and tested above the acceptable 0.3% threshold for THC content. Hummel was not in the car at the time of the stop, but the products came from hemp he was licensed by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to sell.
In the notice of dismissal dated Dec. 4, Fillmore County Attorney Brett Corson wrote that one or more "essential witnesses will be unavailable to testify at trial."
"With the case being delayed for quite some time, (some witnesses) are just no longer available," Corson said. "That makes it pretty difficult to proceed to trial, so that's really what it came down to."
Corson said that one witness had moved on to another job and another witness wasn't able to be reached. The witness list for the state included law enforcement officers, lab technicians and the individual who was stopped with Hummel's hemp products that tested above the legal threshold.
The pandemic is ultimately to blame for the complaint being dismissed, Corson said.
"We would have tried this case and been done with it before these issues with the witnesses came up," Corson said. "From my perspective, I think it was a pretty straightforward case."
During a contested omnibus hearing in December 2019, witnesses from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Fillmore County Sheriff's Office ended up shedding light on a system overwhelmed with regulations and untrained on enforcement.
"The longer criminal cases get delayed, the more difficult it gets to prosecute," Corson said. "Witnesses move on and they're gone, and/or they want nothing to do with it."
Corson added that although the case won't be tried in court, it helped "a number of county attorneys" in the state who reached out for help regarding cases involving the legality of hemp products and how to get them tested properly. He said Fillmore County was the first in the state to address the issue.
"Law enforcement from the area were able to get involved in the discussions about the hemp laws and some of the revisions they made last year," Corson said. "So there's some positives out of this. The issue has been flushed out a lot better."
Following the dismissal, Susan Johnson, the defense attorney representing Hummel, said that her client was "caught up in a situation where the law was inchoate."
"The legislature enacted at least two revisions relating to industrial hemp during the pendency of Mr. Hummel's criminal case. Further, in 2019, the legislature directed the Commissioner of Agriculture and the Commissioners of Public Safety and Health to develop a framework for regulating the possession and use of THC resulting from the processing of hemp after Mr. Hummel was charged with possession and sale of controlled products," Johnson wrote in a statement to Agweek. "We believe that Mr. Hummel's hemp-based products were legal under the statutes that existed at the time of the charges against him. Mr. Hummel was duly licensed as a grower and a processor and his 2018 crop was approved by the MDA."