Hemp or pot: What’s the difference?
A federal judge on Friday approved the release of test results on 7,000 pounds of a green, leafy substance seized by Idaho State Police in January.
At the time, ISP called the seizure a marijuana bust — perhaps the largest in agency history. The company that owned the crop claimed it was hemp. Test results found that it is indeed industrial hemp.
Big Sky Scientific, the company that owns the hemp, sued Idaho State Police asking for the release of its industrial hemp and its truck. On Feb. 19, U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Ronald Bush denied the release of the hemp, but on Friday determined that the testing results would be made public record.
The 2018 Farm Bill made the growth and sale of industrial hemp legal across the country, as long as it has a THC concentration of less than .3 percent. THC is the psychoactive component in some forms of cannabis that creates a high for the user.
President Donald Trump signed it into law in December.
In Idaho, however, hemp is still considered to be illegal, regardless of whether it has a low THC concentration. Any person possessing hemp faces the same punishment as a person possessing marijuana, despite the fact that local grocery stores sell products containing hemp oil.
“We are happy that the 9th Circuit has agreed with Big Sky that Idaho taxpayers and the general public deserve to know that Idaho’s own tests performed in a Kentucky lab showed that what we were hauling was in fact hemp and not marijuana,” said Big Sky Scientific CEO Ryan Shore in a news release on Tuesday. “All of our tests showed our shipment was hemp, and every test that Idaho conducted showed that our hemp was significantly below the 0.03% THC limit for industrial hemp.”
Despite having tests that show the shipment was hemp, not marijuana, Idaho has not released the shipment to Big Sky.
The Ada County Prosecutor’s Office did charge the driver of the semi-truck, Denis V. Palamarchuk, 36, who works for VIP Transporter in Portland, with felony drug trafficking-marijuana. That’s a crime that carries a mandatory five-year minimum prison sentence if convicted.
Palamarchuk is out on bond and pleaded not guilty to the charge in April.
“The semi-truck he was driving remains impounded and Idaho has asked a state judge to let it sell the truck and trailer and to destroy Big Sky’s crop,” according to a news release from Big Sky.
“It is unfortunate that at the same time Idaho knew the truth about the material Big Sky was transporting and was petitioning the federal court to keep these test results sealed, the state continued to portray our driver as a marijuana trafficker in the press,” Shore said in the news release.
Big Sky has reported that Palamarchuk was shipping the hemp to Colorado after Big Sky purchased it from a hemp farmer who was licensed by the Oregon Department of Agriculture. It was seized on Interstate 84 after the driver voluntarily stopped at a weigh station.