Court Opinions: 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion for Jan. 24

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

Editor’s Note: Law Week Colorado edits court opinion summaries for style and, when necessary, length.

Serna v. Denver Police Department, et al.

Francisco Serna arrived at the Denver International Airport for a return flight to Texas, where he’s a licensed hemp farmer, and was traveling with 32 hemp plant clones and rooted clippings. 

At a security checkpoint, Serna produced certificates stating he could transfer the plants because they contained less than 0.3% THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, meaning they were grown in compliance with the 2018 Farm Bill. Despite the certificates, an officer from the Denver Police Department, Anselmo Jaramillo, confiscated Serna’s hemp plants, citing a department policy to confiscate plants at the airport containing any amount of THC. 

The next day, Serna sued Jaramillo and the Denver Police Department, asserting a single claim under 10114(b) of the 2018 Farm Bill. He alleged by confiscating his plants, the defendants violated the code’s restriction on state laws that prohibit interstate transportation of hemp. 

The defendants moved to dismiss the claim, arguing Serna failed to state a viable claim because 10114(b) doesn’t create a private cause of action for hemp farmers to remedy state officials’ purported violations of that provision. A magistrate judge agreed and recommended granting the defendants’ motion. Over Serna’s objection, the district court adopted the recommendation and dismissed the complaint with prejudice. 

Serna appealed, arguing the district court improperly dismissed his complaint and should’ve granted him leave to amend his complaint. 

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s ruling dismissing Serna’s complaint with prejudice, finding the 2018 Farm Bill doesn’t create a private cause of action because it regulates entities and grants no rights to a protected class, so Serna can’t state a claim under 10114(b). The 10th Circuit also ruled Serna didn’t comply with procedural elements to file an amendment to his claim. 

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