Despite petition, prosecutor firm on hemp-hauling truckers’ charges

May 24, 2019

Chuck Robinson

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A petition begging for leniency for three truck drivers who hauled cargos of hemp through Idaho and were charged with drug trafficking seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

Ada County, Idaho, Prosecutor Jan Bennetts and Idaho State Police Director Colonel Kedrick Wills issued a statement on Tuesday, May 22, in response to the petition being delivered. In it, they said “be assured that we are listening and have heard your concerns.” Nonetheless, although the 2018 federal farm bill legalized hemp in December, Idaho law still considers hemp as marijuana.

“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,” reads the joint statement from the prosecutor and state police. “As a consequence, hemp is not legal in Idaho.”

They said they were bound to enforce the law that exist, not those that may exist in the future. The full statement is below.

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

D’Addario, 28, of Colorado, and Eisenhart, 26, of Oregon, were arrested April 12, 2018, for hauling 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 for hauling hemp plants across Idaho. They await sentencing in June.

Palamarchuk, 36, of Portland Ore., was arrested Jan. 24, for driving a truck for third-party trucking company VIP Transporter LLC, Portland, with a load being hauled for Big Sky Scientific, Boise, Idaho. Police seized the more than 6,700 pounds of cargo and the semitrailer hauling it. Palamarchuk is scheduled to go to court Oct. 2.

Reps. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, and Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, on Tuesday submitted the petition to the Ada County Prosecutor’s office with more than 12,000 signatures. The prosecutor refused to meet with them. The Change.org petition was created May 5 by Tracy Olson of Boise, Idaho, who is an activist and real estate agent.

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.  The legislation would have legalize the transport, sale and farming of hemp and conformed to federal removal of hemp from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.

Ruble and Moon also co-sponsored legislation to reform mandatory minimum sentencing laws, but it did not become law either. Mandatory sentencing requires the truck drivers to serve five years in prison.

“Now, three hapless truck drivers face the cruel consequences of the Legislature’s inaction,” Moody and Rubel said in an op-ed recently sent to all Idaho newspapers and supplied to Land Line Media by Moody. “At this point, the only way they can go on with their lives without prison time or a criminal record is if the Ada County Prosecutor decides to drop charges. She could do this tomorrow if she so chose; Idaho’s laws have taken the power and discretion from judges and given it to prosecutors.

Another news release was issued Tuesday.

“These truck drivers are not a danger to our state.” Rubel said in the Tuesday news release reported by KPVI.com. “Idaho is on the brink of committing a serious injustice. These men should not face prison time and a felony criminal record for doing their jobs. They did not come to Idaho with the intent to cause harm or create trouble, and we strongly urge the prosecutor to drop charges. It is difficult to think of a worse way to spend taxpayer dollars than by prosecuting and imprisoning these gentlemen, who were trying to make an honest living transporting harmless agricultural products.”

The trucker drivers should not have a criminal record for doing what any working person would have done in these scenarios, Moon said in the news release.

“They are truck drivers, not lawyers, and they should not have their lives ruined for not doing the legal research to discover that Idaho’s laws are out of step with the rest of America,” Moon said in the news release. “Idaho’s archaic hemp laws are depriving our farmers of opportunity, they are punishing people for honest work, and they are wasting our tax dollars. The Legislature will hopefully fix the law next year, but in the meantime the Ada County Prosecutor should show better judgment and drop these charges immediately.”

Listen to an interview with Reps. Rubel and Moon and also petition organizer Tracy Olson on Land Line Now here.

Previous coverage:

Joint Statement from Idaho State Police and Ada County Prosecutor regarding enforcement of Idaho’s Uniform Controlled Substances laws

By Ada County Prosecutor Jan Bennetts and Idaho State Police Director Colonel Kedrick Wills

The Idaho State Police, Ada County Prosecutor’s Office and our law enforcement partners work diligently each day to handle each case in an ethical and appropriate manner. We will always listen to the concerns of citizens and those interested in the outcome of cases.

Those who signed the petition that has recently circulated and citizens interested in the outcome of those recently publicized cases can be assured that we are listening and have heard your concerns.

The Ada County Prosecutor’s Office is prohibited from negotiating the resolution of cases through the media, or with others who do not legally represent the parties. The case investigated and submitted to our office, by the Boise Police Department, following the arrests of two defendants occurred over a year ago and prior to the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. These two defendants are out of custody, represented by counsel and pending sentencing on reduced charges. The case investigated by the Idaho State Police in January 2019 is pending and our ability to comment is limited. The defendant is out of custody and represented by counsel.

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.

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. We continue to be committed, as we have been, to establishing a legal framework to provide a solution to this issue going forward. 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.

 

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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