Idaho News

2 Idaho lawmakers deliver petition supporting hemp truckers to prosecutors

Two Idaho lawmakers who want to see the felony charges dropped against three out-of-state truck drivers caught transporting hemp through Idaho will hand-deliver a petition to Ada County prosecutors Tuesday.

The online petition now has more than 13,000 signatures.

Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, and Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, plan to turn in the signatures at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, and then hold a press conference on the steps of the Ada County Courthouse, according to a news advisory Monday from Hailie Johnson-Waskow, communications director for the Idaho House and Senate Democrats .

Tracy Olson, who created the online petition, will be at the press conference. Those who want to watch the press conference online can view it here.

This is a news update. Here’s our story from May 6, 2019:

Hundreds of people have signed an online petition calling for charges to be dropped against three truck drivers from Oregon and Colorado who were hauling hemp in Idaho in the past two years.

The petition was created Sunday by Boisean Tracy Olson. Just over 400 people had signed it as of Monday afternoon.

“Hemp has been legalized at the federal level and is legal in nearly every other state,” Olson wrote in the petition to Ada County Prosecutor Jan Bennetts. “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. “

Olson told the Statesman on Monday that she’s an “ordinary citizen in Idaho who is really concerned about what’s going to happen to these individuals.”

Idaho Rep. Ilana S. Rubel, D-Boise, shared the petition on Twitter and urged others to sign it. She told the Statesman that the truck drivers were hauling what is widely considered a harmless agricultural product and that they should not be facing criminal charges that could have long-term impacts on their lives and employment — much less years in prison.

“It’s entirely in the hands of the Ada County prosecutor,” Rubel said. “There’s nobody else in the state who can fix what I view as a severe miscarriage of justice.”

Rubel is a Harvard Law School graduate and has been a partner in the Boise law firm of Fenwick & West, LLP, since 2007. She’s on leave while she serves in public office.

Idaho law makes no distinction between marijuana and hemp; all cannabis is prohibited. Anything that tests positive for the psychoactive drug THC is illegal, though hemp contains miniscule amounts.

Two of the three defendants — Erich Eisenhart, 25, of Oregon, and Andrew D’Addario, 27, of Colorado — were arrested for hauling hemp in April 2018, about eight months before the federal farm bill made hemp legal.

Idaho lawmakers considered legalizing hemp this year but that fell apart at the end of the session. Transporting hemp through Idaho remains illegal.

Both Eisenhart and D’Addario were charged with felony drug trafficking, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison. They both pleaded guilty in early April to felony possession with the intent to deliver.

Their sentencings are scheduled for June 25. They face up to five years in prison.

Both Olson and Rubel said these cases point out a need for a change in mandatory minimum sentences for drug trafficking.

“Prosecutors have the only power,” Rubel said. “Judges have no power in sentencing.”

In January, Portland truck driver Denis Palamarchuk was charged with felony drug trafficking after he was caught hauling a truck filled with what he said was hemp. An Idaho State Police investigator suspected the 6,700 pounds of green, leafy substance to be marijuana. It was sent out of state for testing.

Idaho State Police declined to release the results of the tests due to pending litigation by the owner of the cargo, Big Sky Scientific.

In late April, U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Ronald Bush, who denied the release of the truck to Big Sky in February, approved release of the test results. The test results showed it was indeed hemp.

Palamarchuk, who is out on bail, pleaded not guilty to drug trafficking at his arraignment in mid-April. District Court Judge Jonathan Medema scheduled a three-day trial, which is set to start Oct. 2. A pretrial conference is set for Sept. 17.

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