Dreams of growing hemp in Oregon go up in smoke

Oregon
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FILE – In this April 23, 2018 file photo, a sign designates the type of crop grown in a field as it stands ready to plant another hemp crop for Big Top Farms near Sisters, Ore. Hemp is about to get the federal legalization that marijuana, its cannabis cousin, craves. That unshackling at the national […]

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Dreams to plant fields of industrial hemp worth millions of dollars have instead grown into a federal lawsuit claiming false promises, lost profits and lost investments.

According to the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, there were plans to “farm and cultivate approximately 950 acres of hemp…” on 2 different parcels of Oregon farmland with the goal of producing at least 2 million pounds of dried hemp in 2019.

The suit says some of the hemp was to be turned into CBD oil, which is a quickly growing market.

Instead, Jupiter Pharma of Delaware claims the man the company made the deal with to produce the crops in Gervais and Independence did not own or control the land and had no rights to farm any of it.

“It’s a long story,” said Luke Lafayette before referring KOIN 6 News to his lawyer. KOIN left a message for his attorney.

According to the lawsuit Jupiter Pharma agreed in March to pay Lafayette $7.5 million for delivery of that hemp, and he would earn more if he produced more.  

The suit says Jupiter Pharma invested $1 million in the project, and that over the past 3 months, a representative of the company made at least 5 trips to meet with Lafayette and tour the property.

At the same time, the company was “procuring outside investors, meeting with potential purchasers of CBD oil and entering into contracts with a contractor to build a facility for drying and extraction at a cost in excess of $12.2 million, to purchase equipment… at a cost in excess of $3.3 million.”

Jupiter Pharma said all was running according to plan, until mid-May when Lafayette suddenly quit communicating. The company said Lafayette’s lawyer claimed their agreement was not final or binding.

The suit says hemp growing season starts in June, and if the seeds are not planted this month the season will be lost, and Jupiter Pharma will lose its investment.

The suit says the company learned on Thursday that Lafayette began planting hemp seed on the land for another party.

The lawsuit asks for at least $1 million and additional punitive damages. It also asks for a judge to block Lafayette from allowing anyone else to farm the land.

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