Petition to help hemp haulers in Idaho addresses broader concerns

May 22, 2019

Chuck Robinson


Three truck drivers face mandatory minimums of five years in prison for hauling loads of hemp across Idaho. A petition asking for prosecutorial leniency for the hemp haulers has drawn more than 13,000 electronic signatures.

The issues at stake, however, are broader than the threats to the livelihoods of those three truck drivers, though, the woman behind the petition told Land Line Now’s Mary McKenna.

McKenna also talked about the petition and related issues with Democrat Rep. Ilana Rubel and Republican Rep. Dorothy Moon, who have co-sponsored legislation addressing the issues of hauling hemp across Idaho.

The petition was created May 5 by Tracy Olson of Boise, Idaho, who is an activist and real estate agent. By noon on Wednesday, May 22, there were 13,389 signatures.

Olson and the petitioners ask Ada County Prosecutor Jan Bennetts to drop the charges against Andrew D’Addario, Erich Eisenhart, and Denis Palamarchuk, three truck drivers who were arrested and charged for hauling hemp across Idaho.

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.

D’Addario, 28, of Colorado, and Eisenhart, 26, of Oregon, were arrested on 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.

A statement attached to the petition states:

“Hemp has been legalized at the federal level and is legal in nearly every other state. We do not want our tax dollars spent prosecuting or incarcerating these individuals, and we do not feel their future employment prospects should be clouded with a criminal record on account of their work transporting hemp.

“It is cruel to upend these men’s lives in the current manner, and frankly, it is an embarrassment to the state of Idaho. You are the only player in our legal system who has the power to fix the situation and ensure they can go on with their lives without a criminal record from these events.”

The federal farm bill legalized hemp in December. The farm bill defines hemp as having 0.3% THC or less. THC is the principal psychoactive chemical in marijuana. The amount of THC in hemp is too small to give users a high.

Idaho law does not distinguish between marijuana and hemp. Both are illegal.

“It upset me that they were being charged for transporting a controlled substance when hemp is not a controlled substance,” Olson told McKenna.

It further upset her that Idaho law enforcement authorities stonewalled releasing the information that the confiscated cargo was hemp until there was a court order, Olson said.

“It also made me upset me that these individuals’ lives were going to be ruined because the Ada County prosecutor has chosen to prosecute them to the full extent of the law,” Olson said, adding a few seconds later, “I want to help these three individuals but there is a broader reason for this.”

The issue of mandatory minimum sentencing is part of the broader reason. Because of mandatory sentencing guidelines, judges don’t have discretion in sentencing, even if transporting controlled substances does not seem to fit the case of drivers hauling hemp cargos that federal law says is legal. Only the prosecutor has discretion.

Rep. Rubel encouraged Olson to create the petition. She said she hopes the county prosecutor listens to the petitioners because the drivers do not deserve mandatory prison time for hauling what they believed was a legal cargo. The mandatory sentence is five years in prison, she said.

“If the charges are dropped before then, they can emerge from this unscathed without having to do jail time, without having a criminal record,”Rubel said.

Reps. Rubel and Moody co-sponsored legislation (HB 122) in the Idaho House of Representatives to legalize industrial hemp and harmonize Idaho’s law with federal law. It passed overwhelmingly in House, but died the Senate.

Moon explained that in Senate, lawmakers performed a “radiator cap“ maneuver to the House legislation, which means they kept the title and replaced the text. The Senate gutted the agriculture bill designed to harmonize state law with federal farm bill legislation and turned it into an interstate transportation bill, added random road blocks.

“They made it a law enforcement bill at that moment and it was no longer an agriculture bill,” Moody told Land Line Now’s McKenna.

Rubel and Moon also sponsored legislation to give judges more discretion in sentencing.


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.