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$2 million sought for Rogue Valley hemp seized at North Carolina airport

A North Carolina business wants $2 million from a private jet company on accusations that a form left blank before takeoff culminated in the seizure and destruction of more than a ton of hemp grown in Southern Oregon.

We CBD, LLC, registered in Raleigh, North Carolina, and related We C Manage, LLC, registered in Portland, filed a negligence lawsuit earlier this week against Planet Nine Private Air for an alleged clerical error that culminated with U.S. Customs seizing and destroying more than 3,200 pounds of Rogue Valley-grown hemp destined for Zurich, Switzerland.

The lawsuit filed Monday in the Western North Carolina District of U.S. District Court claims that Planet Nine Private Air “did not file the necessary and appropriate documents, which ultimately led to the seizure and destruction of plaintiff’s merchandise by the U.S. government.”

The private jet departed the Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport with 3,200 pounds of “legal hemp” packaged in 44-pound duffel bags Nov. 8. The plane stopped for fuel in North Carolina later that day.

The lawsuit filed by Charlotte lawyer William Terpening claims that the general baggage and cargo declaration form submitted to the federal government was left entirely blank.

“Before the plane was able to depart from Charlotte, CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) detained and inspected the aircraft ... CBP could visibly see from a distance, through the windows of the aircraft sitting on the tarmac, that there was cargo in the plane,“ Terpening states.

Only after U.S. Customs agents were already on the plane, a charter jet representative allegedly told We CBD that the company was “working on” submitting an Electronic Export Information or “EEI“ form.

“Planet Nine knew or should have known that the EEI had to have been filed at least two hours before departure,” Terpening claims.

The charter jet coordinated documents with Swiss Customs and coordinated for the hemp’s storage in Switzerland, according to the lawsuit.

We CBD claims that the air carrier’s negligence caused the government to “ultimately refuse to return and/or destroy the merchandise.”

Terpening is also representing We CBD in a separate lawsuit filed against the government in March surrounding the hemp’s seizure and destruction, court records show.

According to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection letter filed in that lawsuit, the government has seized and forfeited 2,779.83 pounds of hemp tested to have more than 0.3% THC — the limit for industrial hemp under the 2018 Farm Bill — and thus seized and forfeited the hemp as marijuana.

Another 548.22 pounds of the seized plant material in vacuum sealed plastic bags was within industrial hemp guidelines, according to the government letter dated March 5.

Terpening’s lawsuit against the government disputes those findings because U.S. Customs and Border Protection has “presented no evidence, no test results and no testing methodologies.”

On July 15, the government filed a motion seeking to dismiss Terpening’s lawsuit on grounds that the federal Tort Claims Act bars claims that arise from goods detained by by Customs officers, and because of “We CBD’s failure to exhaust its administrative remedies.”

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.