Lawsuit Protesting Blocked Cannabis Equipment Imports Dismissed

A lawsuit that alleges U.S. Customs and Border Protection improperly excluded the import of cannabis and hemp processing equipment was dismissed Thursday by a federal trade court that said it didn’t have jurisdiction to hear the case. 

The equipment consisted of parts for a cryo-ethanol extraction system, which is used in large-scale cannabis and hemp processing to produce cannabinoid-rich crude extract that can be further refined into high-purity distillates and isolates, and was detained at a Los Angeles port by CBP in early 2021. After repeated attempts to contact CBP were unsuccessful, plaintiff Root Sciences LLC assumed the merchandise was deemed excluded and submitted a protest, which also received no response from the CBP. Root Sciences filed a lawsuit in March after it assumed its protest of the merchandise exclusion was deemed denied, the lawsuit states. 

However, the opinion issued by Judge Gary S. Katzmann states that the merchandise was seized and forfeited, not excluded, giving jurisdiction to the federal district court: only merchandise that is deemed excluded is appealable to the Court of International Trade. 

In the lawsuit, the plaintiff argues that marijuana and cannabis processing equipment is legal in California, making the seized merchandise exempt from Section 863 of Title 21 of the United States Code that prohibits the importation of drug paraphernalia. 

“Root Sciences’ imported merchandise has been detained, seized, excluded—and generally harassed—at numerous ports upon entry into the United States. In each prior instance, the merchandise was imported at U.S. ports of entry located within states that have enacted laws that unquestionably trigger the federal authorization exemption of 21 U.S.C. § 863(f)(1).

“The instant exclusion is unlawful and disregards the clear intent of Congress which seeks to recognize State laws governing merchandise meeting the federal definition of ‘drug paraphernalia,’” court documents state. 

The plaintiff is represented by Neville Peterson LLP