Fines, probation, but no jail time for hemp truckers, under new deal with Ada prosecutors –

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BOISE — Three out of state truckers — who originally faced felony marijuana trafficking charges after they were found to be moving hemp through Ada County — will likely plead to misdemeanors, serve no jail time, and remain on unsupervised probation.

Those are the new terms of the plea agreements the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office negotiated with the truckers in recent days. The new stipulations to the plea agreements were filed late Tuesday afternoon.

Two of the truckers, Andrew D’Addario, 28, of Colorado, and Erich Eisenhart, 26, of Oregon, had already pleaded guilty to felonies — possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, back in April. The agreement means they will plead guilty to misdemeanors instead.

Their arrest came in April 2018. They were transporting 915 hemp plants from Colorado, where hemp is legal, to another state, Oregon, where the crop is also legal.

Hemp, which is a cannabinoid, as is marijuana, is not legal in Idaho, even though it’s legal at the federal level, thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill.By federal law, industrial hemp contains 0.3% or less of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Hemp does not produce a high, and it is used for a plethora of other purposes, such as rope and anxiety-reducing CBD oil. Under Idaho law, hemp is considered marijuana.

Attempts by the Idaho Legislature to legalize hemp this past session were not successful, and last week the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to rule on how the interstate commerce of hemp should be regulated through Idaho, deciding instead to leave it to state courts.

The lack of guidelines also led to the arrest of Denis Palamrchuk, 38, in January. He was transporting 6,701 pounds of hemp from Oregon to Colorado on behalf of a company there, Big Sky Scientific. He stopped at a port of entry in Ada County, and Idaho State Police arrested him. Prosecutors charged him with drug trafficking in marijuana, and he faced a mandatory minimum of five years in prison under Idaho law if convicted.

Under the new agreement, D’Addario and Eisenhart will plead guilty to misdemeanor possession of marijuana. Prosecutors agreed to ask the judge sentence the men to 180 days in jail, suspend 178 of those days, and give them credit for the two days they already served in the Ada County Jail. The agreement means they will serve no more time in jail, unless they violate the two years of unsupervised probation prosecutors will ask for. They agreed to pay, between them, $5,138.79 in restitution and “law enforcement investigative costs.”

Palamarchuk agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor violation of trucking an improperly permitted load including a faulty bill of loading. Prosecutors agreed to recommend 180 days in jail for him, with 175 days suspended, and to ask he be given credit for five days already served. They agreed to ask for one year of unsupervised probation for him, plus a total of $2,360 in fines and restitution, plus court costs.

The penalties for all three men are far lighter than those they would’ve faced if they’d been convicted of the charge they’d initially been charged with — that of trafficking in marijuana which, due to the amount of hemp in each case, would’ve resulted in a mandatory minimum five years in prison. Idaho’s mandatory minimum drug trafficking laws are governed solely by the amount of a drug in a given case; attempts to remove those mandatory minimums this past legislative session were also defeated.

According to the stipulations written by prosecutors in the cases, however, they still felt the men could be convicted of the trafficking charge.

“Despite changes to the Federal Schedule of Controlled Substances brought about by the enactment of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 201 8, cannabis plants containing any amount of THC or Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol remain illegal in Idaho,” they wrote.

In addition to that, prosecutors argued the 2018 Farm Bill required each state set up infrastructure required to regulate the growing of hemp. Each state’s plan then had to be approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, before the hemp can be shipped across state lines. According to court documents, prosecutors do not feel state governments have done that yet.

“Under these circumstances, neither the Commerce Clause of the United States nor the Agriculture Improvement Act of 20 preempts Idaho’s Controlled Substances Act,” the stipulations read.

Regardless, prosecutors noted all three men believed the hemp was legal to transport through Idaho. Their employers told them that, the documents read, and “there was (a) considerable amount of misinformation being circulated in the national media surrounding the provisions of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 201 8.”

For those reasons, prosecutors cut the agreements they did.

In an official written statement, however, Ada County Prosecutor Jan Bennetts implored lawmakers to craft regulations for the interstate transport of industrial hemp.

“The State and defense teams have been working diligently to reach appropriate resolutions in these cases and have entered into the stipulated agreements filed in court today,” Bennetts’ statement reads. “The 2018 Farm Bill’s intent of allowing the interstate transportation of hemp will only be realized in Idaho once there is a regulatory system in place, which has not yet occurred in Idaho. It is our hope that such a regulatory system will be in place soon so those who would transport or ship through Idaho are not at risk of violating Idaho’s law.”

Because each of the men agreed to plead to misdemeanors, their cases must move back to Ada County Magistrate Court. They do not have new court dates scheduled.


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