Idaho News

Colorado company says federal judge’s ruling proves truck seized in Idaho was full of hemp

When Idaho State Police seized a truck hauling about 7,000 pounds of bags filled with a green, leafy substance in late January, they put out a press release saying that the contents were marijuana — though the driver insisted that it was industrial hemp.

As a lawsuit filed by Big Sky Scientific LLC, the owner of the cargo, works its way through court, Big Sky says that a judge’s ruling against the company last week actually proves its point that the substance is hemp.

Idaho State Police sent the THC-containing substance to a lab for tests, but last week declined to release the results to the Statesman because of an ongoing investigation.

Big Sky, a Colorado company, asked for a preliminary injunction to force ISP to release the truck — and the industrial hemp it says is degrading without climate controls — but Chief Magistrate Judge Ronald E. Bush denied that request.

Big Sky appealed that decision Wednesday to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

“We are encouraged that our appeal will be heard on an expedited schedule,” Big Sky Scientific CEO Ryan Shore said in a press release Monday.

“We were disappointed that the district judge denied our request for a preliminary injunction, but we’re hopeful the Circuit Court will order the release of our property. We are confident that Idaho authorities violated several provisions of federal law in arresting the owner-operator of the truck and seizing our cargo.

“The 2018 Farm Bill clearly says that no state shall be allowed to prohibit the transportation of hemp or hemp products through any state.”

Big Sky officials said Bush’s ruling on the preliminary injunction revealed that the tests done by Idaho officials determined that the cargo was indeed industrial hemp, not marijuana. (Although according to Idaho statute, any THC-containing substance is marijuana.) Big Sky cited this footnote from Bush’s ruling:

“There is no evidence in the record that the seized load does not meet the definition of industrial hemp in the 2018 Farm Bill (having a △-9 THC concentration level of 0.3 percent or less). The results of the different tests made part of the record by the parties vary significantly, however, to the point that the court questions whether an ‘apples to apples’ comparison is truly possible; regardless, no testing has reported a greater than 0.3 % concentration level of Δ-9 THC.”

Hemp and marijuana are different varieties of cannabis, but hemp has much lower levels of THC and doesn’t offer the high. Still, industrial hemp is just as illegal in Idaho as marijuana.

The 2018 farm bill legalized industrial hemp, so Big Sky Scientific believes that federal law and the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution protect the transport of it through states.

“Industrial hemp is now legal across the country and has been removed from the federal Controlled Substances Act registry,” Big Sky Scientific said in its release. “It is categorized as an ‘agricultural commodity’ no different than corn, wheat, cotton, potatoes and all other farmed crops.”

The company said it purchased the hemp from Boones Ferry Berry Farms in Hubbard, Ore.

In his denial of the preliminary injunction, Bush noted that even if it was hemp, it could not have been produced in accordance with the farm bill because the new law requires states to have federally approved regulatory plans in place.

The driver of the truck, Denis V. Palamarchuk, 36, who works for VIP Transporter in Portland, was charged with felony drug trafficking-marijuana.

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.
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