CHARLESTON — Americans for Prosperity-West Virginia has joined with several others in sending a letter to the Legislature seeking reform of civil asset forfeiture policies.
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt and the coalition of local and national organizations sent the letter this week to the West Virginia Legislature urging them to quickly address civil asset forfeiture policies in the upcoming session.
AFP-WV state director Jason Huffman said no innocent West Virginia citizen or business owner deserves to have the government permanently confiscate their property without being convicted of, or even charged with a crime.
"It’s high time for lawmakers to ensure that Mountaineers’ property rights are safeguarded," Huffman said in a statement provided to The West Virginia Record.
The letter says members of the organizations want the Legislature to stand up for the rights of law-abiding West Virginians by "reforming our state's well-intentioned but ultimately broken civil asset forfeiture system.
"This is especially timely given the federal equivalent is now wrongly coming after West Virginia farmers," the letter states. "A recent federal example of the severe shortfalls of civil forfeiture has hit close to home."
The letter discusses U.S. attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia Mike Stuart's lawsuit against a West Virginia industrial hemp farmer, threatening heavy fines, the seizure of commodities and an injunction against further cultivation.
"In other words, it seeks to destroy the farmer’s livelihood," the letter states. "The reason? The civil lawsuit claims the farmer violated the Control Substance Act by growing 'marijuana."
The letter said referring to industrial hemp as marijuana is inaccurate.
"Industrial hemp farming is not illegal," the letter said. "This ham-handed lawsuit hinges on the procurement of hemp seeds, which state code is silent on."
The coalition seeks to help ensure that hardworking West Virginians' property rights are safeguarded and that all citizens are protected from the "well-intentioned but abused system of civil asset forfeiture."
Also signing the letter were Mark Holden, chairman of Freedom Partners, Eli Baumwell, police director of American Civil Liberties Union-WV, Neill Franklin, the executive director of Law Enforcement Action Partnership, Marc A. Levin, vice president of Right on Crime, and Adam Brandon, president of FreedomWorks.