Idaho News

Hemp or marijuana? ISP stops truck driver with 6,701 pounds of ‘green, leafy substance’

A Portland truck driver was charged with felony trafficking of marijuana after an Idaho State Police trooper inspected the contents of the man’s rig at a truck stop at the East Boise Port of Entry last Thursday — and then did not buy the driver’s story that he was hauling hemp rather than marijuana, according to a press release from ISP.

Although it would not make much of a difference in Idaho, technically, because hemp meets the statutory definition of marijuana in this state if it contains THC, according to Scott Bandy, deputy Ada County prosecutor.

Hemp plants typically contain less than 0.3 percent of THC – the psychoactive chemical in marijuana – and marijuana plants generally contain anywhere from 15 to 40 percent THC, The Associated Press reported.

“From his training and experience, the trooper knows what marijuana smells like, and the odor was very easily detectable by him, even with the trailer’s doors closed,” ISP spokesman Tim Marsano told the Statesman.

Denis V. Palamarchuk, 36, was booked into the Ada County Jail. He was released on a $100,000 bond and his next court appearance is Feb. 7, according to online court records.

Denis Palmarchuk.JPG
Denis Palmarchuk Ada County Jail

Palamarchuk is a driver for VIP Transporter LLC in Portland, company owner Ivan Pavliy told the Statesman. He said the truck was loaded with industrial hemp in Hubbard, Oregon, and it was bound for Aurora, Colorado. He said he was “a million percent” sure the cargo was hemp, not marijuana. He said the company had transported two other trucks full of hemp prior to Palamarchuk’s arrest.

The new federal Farm Bill legalized the farming of hemp, but Idaho has not done so. Boise State Radio reported that Republican Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy from Genesee plans to introduce a legalization bill.

Pavliy told the Statesman that he thought hemp’s legal status federally meant the transport across state lines was no longer an issue.

Not so, according to Bandy, who told the Statesman that under no circumstance is cultivation, production, possession or consumption or hemp legal in Idaho.

“If there is any quantity of THC, then it meets the definition of marijuana,” Bandy said.

Last Thursday, Palamarchuk was eastbound on Interstate 84 and stopped at the East Boise Port of Entry, about 10 miles outside of Boise. A trooper with ISP’s Commercial Vehicle Safety section did an inspection of his tractor-trailer. The cargo’s bill of ladling said the truck was loaded with hemp.

The trooper used a drug identification kit to test a sample from one of the bags found in the truck, and it was “presumptive positive for THC,” ISP said in the release. A drug-sniffing dog also gave a “positive alert” to the cargo.

The cargo in the truck, packed in 31 bags, weighed 6,701 pounds, according to ISP. It is being tested at a laboratory for conclusive identification.

Marsano told the AP that he did not know what THC content level would generate a positive result by the field tests or the dogs.

If it is marijuana, it would be the largest trafficking seizure in memory, and more than the total annual seizures for the past five years combined.

Marijuana seizure amounts from 2014-2018:

  • 2014 - 319 lbs.

  • 2015 - 458 lbs.

  • 2016 - 507 lbs.

  • 2017 - 1,375 lbs.

  • 2018 - 2,131 lbs.

The penalty for conviction of marijuana trafficking of 25 pounds or more, or 100 plants, is up to 15 years in prison, with a mandatory minimum fixed term of five years in prison.

Reporter Ruth Brown contributed to this article.