Brothers prepare to sue NYPD over hemp-pot mix-up

Two brothers made a move toward suing the New York Police Department over an arrest and seizure of hemp plants that were incorrectly identified as marijuana.

Oren and Ronen Levy filed notices of claim Wednesday after police arrested Ronen Levy in early November and confiscated 106 pounds of hemp plants. Prosecutors dropped Ronen Levy’s felony marijuana possession charges Tuesday, The Associated Press reported.

The notices of claim describe the incident as a “nightmare” that ruined their reputations and threatened their livelihoods of selling CBD, the extract of hemp plants which does not have an intoxicating effect on users. The filing, while not a lawsuit, could evolve into one, according to the newswire. 


Field tests of the seized plants tested positive for marijuana, but Oren Levy alleges that police ignored other lab tests and paperwork which showed that the plants were hemp. He says legal fees and the loss of the plants cost him about $40,000, AP reported. The brothers are asking for $10 million.

“What they did is completely illegal, and these are the people we have to trust to keep us safe?” Oren Levy said, according to the AP.

NYPD, which originally posted about the seizure on social media, told The Hill in a statement that it would review the lawsuit if it ends up being filed. 

Officers Greenidge and Ganshaw from the @NYPD75Pct used precision policing and relentless follow-up, along with a great working relationship with @FedEx and other local law enforcement officials, to confiscate 106 pounds of marijuana that was destined for our city streets.

— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) November 5, 2019

While the U.S. government removed CBD from the list of illegal drugs, as long as it does not contain more than 0.3 percent of THC, New York penal law still regards hemp as illegal. The state is conducting a pilot program for the sale and distribution of hemp, but neither the brothers nor the Vermont farm they received the plants from have permits to participate.

“In New York State, hemp sale and possession/distribution is only permissible when the buyer and seller have the proper permissions from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. In this case, neither the seller nor the buyer had those permissions,” the NYPD said in a statement. “The plants were illegal marijuana and both parties were violating New York State law.”

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