Virginia: Hemp growers file lawsuit against members of the Newport News Police Department after overly aggressive arrest in 2019

3WTKR reports…

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Hemp growers were put in handcuffs in their home during a drug raid back in September 2019, and now they have filed a lawsuit against members of the Newport News Police Department.

“I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to experience or go through what I went through that night,” said Shardell Gerald.

Shardell Gerald and Lamont Burgress showed News 3 security video that captured what happened in their backyard as they said they were answering questions in handcuffs.

It was the night of September 30, 2019, when police surrounded their home.

The couple said they were interested in growing hemp when it became legal about three years ago.

Hemp couple.PNG

 

and last updated 12:53 PM, Apr 27, 2021

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Hemp growers were put in handcuffs in their home during a drug raid back in September 2019, and now they have filed a lawsuit against members of the Newport News Police Department.

“I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to experience or go through what I went through that night,” said Shardell Gerald.

Shardell Gerald and Lamont Burgress showed News 3 security video that captured what happened in their backyard as they said they were answering questions in handcuffs.

It was the night of September 30, 2019, when police surrounded their home.

The couple said they were interested in growing hemp when it became legal about three years ago.

“We thought this would be a great way to reclaim our farming heritage and just start small,” said Gerald, adding the idea was to grow hemp in her backyard to do research and potentially sell it for CBD production.

Gerald said she has been a social worker for the City of Newport News for the past 12 years.

She said with this being a new law, she wanted to make sure they did everything completely by the book when growing hemp.

She showed News 3 her hemp growing registration with the state, a Newport News city business license that she obtained and documents filed out by code compliance.

She gave us a copy of a letter that the Department of Agriculture sent to the police chief stating their intent to grow hemp, which is standard procedure for anyone who has registered.

According to the application from the Virginia Department of Agriculture, “VDACS will forward a record of each Industrial Hemp Grower Registration issued by the Commissioner to the chief law enforcement officer of the locality in which the registered grower will grow industrial hemp. VDACS will notify the Superintendent of State Police of the locations of all industrial hemp production fields.”

Local police and state police are legally allowed to come to see and test the plants along with the VDACS.

The law states if the test shows THC of more than .3 percent, a person is required to destroy the plants and authorities can be notified.

Gerald said they filled out all the necessary paperwork and completed requirements to grow hemp in the backyard.

“I was good to go as far as I was concerned, and we planted in June 2019,” said Gerald.

She said the state came out and tested her plants successfully and she also paid a lab to get her plants tested as well.

Four months after they started growing the plants, there was a knock at her door.

“I just got home from work,” said Gerald. “I get to the front door and I opened it, and there are like five or six officers aiming firearms at us, screaming at us to get our hands up.”

She said they were terrified and confused about what was happening.

She said they were both handcuffed and brought out front of their home and added that there were police vans and officers surrounding their property.

She said officers told her they had a search warrant for marijuana and she said, “I immediately said, ‘This is not marijuana. I am registered to grow industrial hemp,’ but I was told to be quiet.”

“We told them from the very beginning, ‘Hey, this isn’t what they thought it was,’ but our cries went unheard,” said Burgress.

Gerald said she told them she was a city employee and that she had completed all the proper registration.

Burgress said he repeatedly asked for them to take her out of handcuffs. Gerald showed us home security video that captured what happened in the backyard while they were being detained.

You can hear officers talking about the plants in the video, and they appear to be searching information on their phones.

You can hear one officer say, “That’s marijuana; that’s not hemp.”

Another said, “Hemp is tall and skinny. Those don’t look tall and skinny.”

Gerald said she was taken out of handcuffs and allowed to come into the backyard and explain. You can hear her talking about the laws and the registration process.

After the officers left, the couple pulled up their backyard home security system to watch what happened.

“We looked at the video and hear all the commentary with the officers basically not wanting to believe the information that we provided,” said Gerald.

Read on at

https://www.wtkr.com/news/newport-news-hemp-growers-handcuffed-after-police-surround-home

 

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