Truckers transporting hemp deserve compassion from Idaho county prosecutor

July 2019

Chuck Robinson

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My mind is on three truck drivers who were transporting hemp across Idaho.

They were arrested and jailed. They are being prosecuted for drug trafficking. They were not doing that, but that doesn’t matter, it seems. The law is the law, we are told, and these men could pay a high price, thanks to the callousness of the Ada County, Idaho, prosecutor and the Idaho State Police.

A county prosecutor has to balance wanting to be seen as tough on crime with the need for compassion. I fear that prosecutors expend whatever compassion they feel they are allowed on more sympathetic victims.

Do stoic, independent, self-sufficient truck drivers in general rate high on that scale? I fear not, even though among them are knights of the highway and military heroes.

To the extent that prosecutors are politicians, truck drivers can be treated more sternly, more callously because there’s little political fallout. Truckers are not likely to be constituents if they are driving long-haul through a state or through a county.

Well, there isn’t any political fallout if we don’t contact them and let them know they are being unfair to these drivers transporting hemp.

Let me recap the story.

In May, we ran a couple of stories related to a petition asking leniency from Ada County Prosecutor Jan Bennetts for three truck drivers who are crosswise with the law for transporting hemp through Idaho.

Federal law legalized hemp production and industry in the farm bill passed at the end of last year. Hemp is grown from cannabis plants, like marijuana, but does not have enough of the psychoactive ingredient THC to give a person a euphoric high if ingested. State law in Idaho has not caught up to federal law, though, and hemp is as illegal as marijuana.

The three truck drivers whose lives are at stake are Andrew D’Addario, Erich Eisenhart, and Denis Palamarchuk.

D’Addario and Eisenhart were arrested April 12, 2018, for transporting 915 hemp plants from a licensed industrial hemp farm in Colorado to a licensed farm in Oregon. The men pleaded guilty on April 9 to felony possession of marijuana with the intent to deliver. As of press time, they awaited sentencing on June 25.

Palamarchuk was arrested Jan. 24, for hauling a trailer loaded with 6,700 pounds of hemp for Big Sky Scientific, Boise, Idaho. Palamarchuk is scheduled to go to court Oct. 2.

Legislators and petitioners have gotten involved but to little avail so far.

On May 22, Reps. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, and Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, submitted the petition with more than 12,000 signatures requesting leniency for the truck drivers to the office of Ada County Prosecutor Jan Bennetts. Bennetts refused to meet with them. The Change.org petition was created May 5 by Tracy Olson of Boise, Idaho. She is an activist and real estate agent.

Reps. Rubel and Moon co-sponsored legislation that would have harmonized Idaho laws with federal hemp regulation that handily passed the Idaho House of Representatives but was gutted in the Idaho Senate.

Besides the hemp/marijuana issue, also at play here are mandatory minimum sentencing laws, which tie the hands of judges in sentencing. That gives prosecutors more power, more leverage.

Bennetts issued a joint statement from her office and the Idaho State Police. The final line of the statement, though, seems ominous for the affected truck drivers: “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.”

Perhaps, but a late May memorandum from the U.S. Department of Agriculture general counsel says that in his opinion federal law makes interstate commerce of hemp legal, though states may prohibit production of it within their state boundaries.

So if you are of a mind to contact, the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office, below is the contact information.

Get your point across but be polite, please. This isn’t the time to vent. If you happen to live in the county, of course, be sure to make that clear.

  • Phone: 208-287-7700
  • Mail: 200 W. Front St.,
  • Boise, ID 83702
  • Email: AdaCountyProsecutor@adacounty.id.gov

Sign the Change.org petition if you want. Perhaps more signatures will carry weight with state and county officials. As of early June, the number of signatures had passed 21,300. LL

Chuck Robinson

Chuck Robinson formerly was senior copy editor for a weekly trade publication serving the fresh produce industry. He has served trade publications, horticultural journals and community newspapers for 25 years.

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