On a beautiful Thursday afternoon (July 22, 2021) I heard a helicopter over my property for an extended amount of time. Considering I’m a licensed hemp farmer I assumed they were checking my plot, or maybe doing some basic training to help identify cannabis from the air.
When I submitted my license paperwork with the Georgia department of agriculture it’s clear that all of the hemp plot info is shared with law enforcement across the state, and that at any time law enforcement can check our plots, if needed. So, I wasn’t too worried about the extended fly time over my licensed hemp growing space.
About 10-15 minutes after noticing the helicopter two cars rushed into my driveway. One was a marked local sheriff’s vehicle, the other an unmarked truck, considering the speed of the truck I knew something was not right.
In my startled state, I walked outside barefoot (as usual) and without my phone, calmly raising my hands and stating that this was a legal & licensed hemp grow. I raised my hands because as I came outside a fully armed (with military grade weapons) officer was quickly jumping from his unmarked truck, and a local Rabun county deputy was also exiting his marked vehicle.
When I saw the task force officer with all of his equipment and weapons and his obvious demeanor, I knew this wasn’t going to be a simple site check. My initial gut instinct wasn’t wrong.
I slowly approached the local deputy first, as the task force agent roamed my property trying to find an access point to my grow plot (which is fenced off to keep deer, my goat and rabbits out). I explained to the deputy that he passed a sign at my driveway (pointing toward the entrance he used to access my property) that was required with my hemp grower license, also stating that this was a legal hemp grow. The local deputy was very understanding and professional in nature. The county deputy stated that he was just accompanying the other officer, and that I would need to deal with the other agent.
At that time the task force officer approached myself and the deputy, at no time during this whole event did he ever tell me his name or department. He stated that he was here to arrest me for my “marijuana” crop. At that time I again explained that this wasn’t marijuana, but a licensed hemp grow, adding all the info about the sign he just passed and that he should be able to look into his computer system and find the hemp grower info, or call the GA Department of Agriculture for more info how to proceed. He immediately looked me in the eyes and said that he “didn’t believe” me, that he believed this was marijuana and that I was going to be arrested today. I explained that was not the way this was supposed to be done, again backing my statements about my license, the sign and looking into his system, etc. He scoffed, and proceeded again to state that he didn’t believe me, and that this was marijuana in my plot.
After much back and forth (about 45 minutes or so of being detained), and after accessing my grow site, he asked me if I could get my license. At no time looking into his system or calling the Georgia Department of Agriculture himself. Also, the whole time having either a helicopter or plane flying over us which was wasting so much time and fuel on a licensed hemp grow.
I said my hemp document folder, with my license, was inside my home, and asked if I could go get it. At that time he said I couldn’t access my home without him (the task force officer) accompanying me inside. By now I was getting a little frustrated, being treated as if I am lying and a criminal, then trying to gain access to my home (which has nothing to do with my home grow), was starting to really push my buttons. I stated that he had no right into my home without a warrant, he then stated he could get one, and I told him he’s welcome to do that if he would like. The task force agent was really annoyed I wouldn’t just let him access my home, and I then asked if I could get my girlfriend to get my folder, since she was still inside and I could just open my door and ask her without entering my home.
After my girlfriend retrieved my hemp paperwork folder, I then proceeded to find my license. At first in my stressed state I gave him my old license from last year. He instantly thought he had me , since you could clearly see his excitement that gave him a license which was invalid, but moment later I found my current license and handed it over to him. Once he confirmed it was valid for 2021, he stormed off without saying a word, holding my license as he proceeded to contact someone via a communications device near his vehicle across the property.
After about 10 minutes he called the deputy and I over to him. The task force agent then stated to me again that he thought I was lying, that he was also going to take a sample of my plants and “when they came back as marijuana” that he was going to come back to my home with a search warrant and arrest me. At this time, I approved his demand to take samples, stating that he could if he would like, but he would be disappointed with the test results. I requested that he use scissors or a knife to take clippings from my plants, since that was better for the plants, but he refused and said he wasn’t going to use his knife on marijuana, so I let it be. At this point I just wanted him to take his sample and go, his attitude and constant intimidation was beyond unprofessional, and I was tired of dealing with him treating me this way.
After taking his sample, and stating to the deputy how the leaves “didn’t have a strong smell like marijuana”, he again stated that he still thought it could be marijuana because of how I was growing. Stating that hemp is supposed to be grown in rows with plastic mulch, and that hemp wasn’t grown for flowers, but for oil. Trying to educate him, I asked if he had never stopped by a gas station lately, that he could buy hemp flowers from any gas station around, and if it wasn’t grown for flowers where did this gas station hemp come from. Also explaining that I grow my hemp the old fashioned way (mainly in raised beds), and don’t use commercial practices like plastic mulch or big rows, and that I was slowly expanding my grow site so some of my plants were in pots. He really didn’t want to hear any of it, evidently not wanting to be educated by a barefoot hemp farmer.
Upon taking his sample, he said he was done here and that he would be back to arrest me, when this came back as marijuana. At no time did he lower his assumption of me being a criminal or back down on treating me as if I was lying. At no time during this whole 1.5 hour ordeal did he tell me his name or department, it wasn’t until the next day that I learned he was part of the Governor’s Drug Task Force, after my county Deputy Chief called me to discuss the incident and apologize, placing blame on the task force.
Overall, I feel that the Governor’s Task Force Agent had no right to enter my property without a warrant, or detain me for 1.5 hours without completing his due diligence of searching the Department of Agriculture database on licensed hemp farms in his system. The next day I called everyone I could, all of them pointing fingers on the others as their fault. As conclusion, I determined it was the duty of the Task Force agent to be thoroughly educated on how to proceed contacting licensed hemp farmers, and accessing their property, and detaining them without reasonable cause.
No licensed hemp farmer should be treated in this way. I understand how they could mistake hemp for marijuana from the air, they are basically the same plant (cannabis), but the way this “raid” was completed was not right. There is nothing worse than being treated as a criminal, having your rights violated, and being threatened for something totally legal in our state.
I go to sleep every night now wondering if I will be woke up in the middle of the night by fully armed agents with a search warrant to enter my home for legally growing hemp. I had to educate my children on what to do if we are raided again, and to make clear that it could happen.
Everyone I know is aware of why I grow hemp and why I have educated on the subject constantly for many years. I have had a ton of local community support for my hemp farming endeavors. So many great people have reached out with support, expressing how disappointed they are in how the task force treated me on that day. My local and national community have sent emails, called and messaged me, and stopped me in local stores to express how important it is for me to stand up for my rights as a licensed hemp farmer.
This is why I am refusing to back down on this. I am submitting a a formal complaint with the Governor’s Drug Task force, contacting news outlets, and figuring out the legal actions I can work on to make sure nothing like this happens to any other legal cannabis farmer in Georgia.
If you feel that this is something you would like to help support, you can contact your local representative and Governor Brian Kemp‘s office to express your concern for this experience.
Points of contact:
Governor Kemp’s Director of Communications Cody Hall- firstname.lastname@example.org
Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black- email@example.com
Georgia Hemp Program- firstname.lastname@example.org