Nine months since local authorities mistakenly seized his hemp crop, Shamao Yang says, Yang finds himself frustrated with what he calls a lack of communication and sense of urgency from the Bent County Sheriff's Office.
Yang, of North Carolina, claims he is the owner of alleged marijuana confiscated by the sheriff’s office and 16th Judicial District Attorney's Office on Jan. 10. The substance in question wasn't actually marijuana, he says; it was hemp he had grown legally in 2018 on property he registered with the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
Yang said that he had stored about 2,700 pounds of hemp in a storage locker across from Thaxton's Market and disputed the initial announcement from the sheriff's office saying the office had seized more than 10,000 pounds of suspected marijuana.
He said he intended to grow and harvest hemp for its CBD oil, a hot commodity that's still under research but widely believed to possess therapeutic medicinal properties.
"It's definitely not marijuana. It was hemp grown under the industrial hemp program of Colorado," Yang said. "We have a registered company name. We also have proof of purchase of hemp clones from the Colorado Hemp Institute.
"They came out during the grow period. We spoke with them," said Yang. "They said, 'OK, there were concerned citizens talking with us about you guys, (that you) were growing marijuana out here.'
"They were worried because our farm is open; we don't try to hide anything. It's just open," Yang said.
Though Yang lives in North Carolina, he tried his hand at farming in the Las Animas area after starting his business about 4 miles east of Las Animas along U.S. 50.
"We thought we were doing something great, as we've heard many wonderful stories of CBD and its benefits," Yang said. "My family used the life insurance money we received from the passing of our father (Wachue Yang) to create a brand to honor his name, Wachue Growing LLC, and now we have nothing."
Yang provided a Combined Planting and Harvest Report, a state ag department form, with Wachue Growing LLC's registration number and details regarding Yang's crop, to the Bent County Democrat.
Yang said he was told the storage locker that contained the alleged marijuana was registered under his cousin's name. He said he disputed that at the sheriff's office and told the Democrat that he sees the discrepancy as racial discrimination.
Yang said for months he often tried to inquire about his hemp but couldn't get in touch with anyone at the sheriff's office. When he was able to speak with someone on the phone, he was simply told that the sheriff's office was awaiting substance test results from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. That was nine months ago.
"If they feel confident enough to take me to court, we would have figured it out through discovery in a couple of weeks," said Yang. "There is an expiration date on my product. If they wait it out, my stuff is going to go bad. I'm not sure what they're trying to do."
Yang may be dismayed, but his hopes of growing hemp in the Arkansas Valley have not been dispelled. He said he would return next year to plant another crop.
Though the Democrat has called the Bent County Sheriff's Office for comment several times, its requests have not been acknowledged.