The case of the mistaken hemp shipment in not quite over. One day after the Brooklyn district attorney dismissed charges against Oren and Ronen Levy for having 106 pounds of what they contend was legal cannabis shipped from Vermont, they announced plans to sue New York and the New York Police Department for false arrest, among other things.
It's actually kind of funny how Ronen Levy was arrested. His brother Oren owns Green Angel CBD and had arranged for Fox Holler Farm in New Haven, VT to send the shipment on November 1. But FedEx decided to re-route it to Vermont PD first, who cleared it. But when the packages arrived in New York, FedEx again tipped off the police, in this case NYPD. An officer at the 75th Precinct in Brooklyn called Oren and said he had his packages and that he should come and pick them up.
“I'd just gotten out the hospital from a surgery and I was home recovering,” he said at a press conference announcing the legal action on December 11. “So, I asked my brother Ronen to go pick up the shipment.”
Ronen became the unwitting stooge in this gang-that-couldn’t-shoot-straight story.
“On November 2, I got a call from the arresting officer asking me to come in to pick up the hemp,” he explained. “I arrived at about 3:30 pm. I was greeted by two officers. They asked me to go upstairs. I went into a questioning room and they asked me a bunch of questions. Then, they told then they were arresting me.”
The police had tested the hemp and found that it was slightly above the .03 THC cutoff.
“I was treated like a criminal,” Ronen continued. “Everything that came out of their mouths was narcotics. They called me a kingpin. I was handcuffed. I was put in a dirty cell. It was freezing. At first, I didn’t think there was any trickery involved. But their intention was to arrest me. The tricked us. They baited me to come in.”
Both Levys and their high-profile lawyer Sanford Rubenstein all contended that the NYPD should’ve known better than to make the arrests and blast the photo of the confiscated packages on Twitter. Hemp has been legal federally since late 2018 when Congress passed the Farm Bill. But even the largest police force in the U.S. doesn’t know how to distinguish between hemp and marijuana.
“We believe that the state legislature in the next session should pass legalization of marijuana,” Rubenstein stated. “If marijuana was legalized, this never would never have happened.”
Oren Levy has been in the hemp, CBD and natural medicine business for the last five years. “We wholesale and distribute CBD flower,” he said. “We ship it to other cities and have buyers who come to us. A lot of people use it for pain and anxiety, depression, all different kinds of symptoms. It’s marijuana without the high.”
All that flower confiscated by NYPD has likely degraded. “The hemp is already a month old,” he added. “I don’t think I’m going to get the hemp back. Even if I do, how long can you leave a plant in a bag for? I feel really bad. I have people who are sick and are waiting for their medicine.”
The arrests have also done damage to their business and reputations. “People in the recovery field are looking at me like a drug dealer,” Oren commented angrily. “My suppliers have cut me off because they’re scared to be punished like we got punished. We were victims of a victimless crime. We did nothing wrong and we got arrested. My brother faced six felony charges. People are scared of us now. I have a very good name for myself and it got destroyed.”
In the two notice of claims dated December 10, the Levys are asking for $10 million in damages. “This is so other people will not be victimized by the police,” like the Levys were, Rubenstein concluded.