Federal judge in Idaho denies company’s bid to get back truck it says is filled with hemp

Hemp or pot: What’s the difference?

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Now that SC farmers can grow industrial hemp, how well do you know your cannabis?

A Boise federal judge on Tuesday denied a Colorado company’s request for a preliminary injunction to force Idaho State Police to release a semitrailer that it says is filled with industrial hemp, which the company claims is deteriorating and losing value.

The company quickly responded, filing an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on Wednesday.

Big Sky Scientific LLC sued ISP after the truck was seized by police on Jan. 24 near Boise, arguing that hemp was legalized in the new farm bill and transporting it is interstate commerce.

“Typically, these sorts of products are kept in climate-controlled conditions to keep down mold and preserve it. I don’t know that that’s being done at the moment,” said Big Sky Scientific’s attorney, Elijah Watkins of the Boise law firm Stoel Rives.

Idaho State Police said the truck contained 6,701 pounds of a “green, leafy substance” containing THC, which is classified as marijuana in Idaho and therefore illegal. They charged the driver — Denis V. Palamarchuk, 36, who works for VIP Transporter in Portland, Oregon — with felony drug trafficking.

Idaho State Police sent off samples to a lab for additional testing.

An ISP spokesman told the Statesman on Tuesday that the results from the tests were back, but he said they could not be released because “the results are part of an investigation.” The results were filed with the court under seal, so Watkins also declined to release the results.

Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald E. Bush said in his 28-page ruling that “injunctive relief is an extraordinary remedy and only granted by a court under compelling circumstances ... the court must be satisfied that plaintiff is likely to prevail on the merits of its claims about the legal status of the cargo and the meaning of the 2018 Farm Bill.”

Bush said Big Sky has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of the case because the hemp that was seized was not produced in accordance with the farm bill, which requires states to have a federally approved regulatory plan for production.

“It could not have been produced in accordance with subtitle G [of the bill] because Oregon does not have a federally approved plan,” Bush wrote. “And the secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture has yet to establish its own plan as subtitle G requires be done. This is undisputed.”

Watkins said Big Sky bought a total of 14,000 pounds of industrial hemp from an Oregon grower — half of which was in the truck seized by ISP — and the hemp was to be used to make CBD powder that would have a value of $1.3 million. He said the company sells the powder to manufacturers of shampoos, hand lotions and rubs for pets.

Watkins said the product in the truck was proved through several prior testings to be hemp. He said it was tested twice by accredited labs in Oregon, and a sample was also tested in Colorado.

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Katy Moeller has worked at The Idaho Statesman for 13 years. She’s a generalist, an investigative reporter and a feature writer who has been on the breaking news team for a decade. She was Idaho Press Club’s 2016 Print Reporter of the Year.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.