Hemp transportation has become a hot topic as the clash between federal and state laws create confusion for both law enforcement as well as hemp businesses. More discussion is needed between the two sides to clarify how industrial hemp can be transported between states.
Legal Status for Transport of Hemp Remains Confusing
By Eric Miller
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to hear a legal challenge to the arrest of an Oregon truck driver and seizure of a 6,700-pound load of hemp being transported through Idaho.
The legal case, believed to be the first of its kind since new legislation made industrial hemp legal, pits the federal law allowing production and transport of hemp against an Idaho statute that defines hemp as an illegal substance.
The legal fight began in late January when Idaho State Police detected a strong smell coming from a box van trailer during a routine roadside inspection near Boise. Believing the load to be marijuana, police arrested the driver, Denis Palamarchuk, 36, of Portland, on felony marijuana trafficking charges. Authorities also confiscated the load of hemp owned by Big Sky Scientific of Aurora, Colo., the load’s destination.
Although several subsequent lab tests of the substance showed it to be legal industrial hemp as defined in the 2018 Federal Farm Bill signed into law by President Donald Trump in December, the state of Idaho deems hemp and marijuana illegal substances.
Big Sky paid for the driver to be bailed out of jail on a $100,000 bond, and last month the company filed a federal lawsuit seeking to force prosecutors to return its hemp. However, Ada County prosecutors declined to dismiss the case against the driver or release the hemp, and a federal judge agreed.
“In practical terms, the 2018 Farm Bill distinguished industrial hemp from marijuana, added industrial hemp to the list of agricultural commodities and removed industrial hemp from federal controlled-substance schedules,” said Ronald E. Bush, chief U.S. magistrate judge of the District of Idaho. “Though the 2018 Farm Bill removes industrial hemp as a controlled substance under federal law, states and Indian tribes still may declare it to be a controlled substance under state or tribal law. Idaho does not distinguish industrial hemp from marijuana; both are controlled substances under Idaho law.”
But on Feb. 20, the 9th Circuit agreed to hear oral arguments in the case, which could come as early as late April.
It is clear that Hemp transportation will continue to be an issue at least for the near term.