Three Idaho lawmakers are petitioning to convince state prosecutors to drop charges against three men who are facing felony charges for transporting hemp across the state.
Last April, Andrew D'Addario and Erich Eisenhart were arrested for transporting a shipment of Colorado-grown industrial hemp through Idaho, bound for Oregon. The two men were charged with drug trafficking, for which they faced a mandatory minimum five-year sentence. The defendants took a deal instead, pleading guilty to a lesser felony that does not carry a mandatory minimum. In January, Idaho police busted another man, Denis Palamarchuk, for attempting to transport 6,700 pounds of hemp through Ada County, and also charged him with drug trafficking.
Last December, President Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill into law, removing hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and establishing it as a legal agricultural product. Forty-one individual U.S. states have also legalized this non-psychoactive plant, but Idaho is not one of them. State law says all substances that contain any detectable amounts of THC is marijuana, giving police justification to arrest these truck drivers for transporting a harmless plant that's legal throughout most of the country.
State Reps. Dorothy Moon, Tammy Nichols, and Ilana Rubel collected 13,000 signatures on a petition urging Ada County Prosecutor Jan Bennetts to drop all charges against these three men.
“I think this really does cross the line into such an extreme injustice that it really calls for a large-scale attempt to influence the system," Rubel said to Boise State Public Radio (BSPR).
"Injustices happen and the public has to speak up – that’s how Nelson Mandela got sprung from prison," said Moon. "These are humans’ lives we’re dealing with."
Prosecutors and state police, unmoved by this outpouring of support, issued a statement defending their actions. “Those of us who enforce Idaho’s laws are bound by the laws which currently exist, not those which may exist at some future date,” the statement said, according to the Idaho Press. “The 2018 Farm Bill’s intent of allowing the interstate transportation of hemp will only be realized once there is a regulatory system in place. As of this date, that system has not been developed in any state — including Idaho — and is therefore not currently in effect. As a consequence, hemp is not legal in Idaho.”
Moon promised that her fellow lawmakers were currently working on a bill to legalize hemp in the Gem State. “It just needs to get to the governor’s desk,” she said to BSPR. “Let them own it. Let them veto it or let him sign it on.” The police statement acknowledged that “we understand the desire to provide a legal pathway for an alternative crop for Idaho’s farmers and for those who transport it across state lines.”
“We are currently conducting research and working to develop a solution,” the statement concludes. “We continue to be committed, as we have been, to establishing a legal framework to provide a solution to this issue going forward.”