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Idaho Police to Continue Confiscating Hemp Shipments

Idaho law enforcement says it will continue arresting long-haul truck drivers who ferry industrial hemp through the state and confiscating their cargo, despite hemp’s federal legalization and a USDA memo that clarifies interstate hemp transport is legal.

Full story after the jump.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a memo explicitly allowing interstate transportation of legally cultivated industrial hemp products; however, the Idaho State Police told the Associated Press that it will continue to confiscate the products and arrest drivers if they are found in the state.

While the May 28 USDA memo is not legally binding, the agency says the 2018 Farm Bill removed industrial hemp from the federal Controlled Substances Act and, while the agency doesn’t expect to issue rules for hemp until later this year, transportation of the products is lawful.

An Idaho State Police spokesperson told the AP that the federal rules need to be updated before they will change their policies.

“It is important to recognize that the 2018 Farm Bill preserves the authority of States and Indian tribes to enact and enforce laws regulating the production (eic) of hemp that are more stringent than federal law. Thus, while a State or Indian tribe cannot block the shipment of hemp through the State or Tribal territory, it may continue to enforce State or Tribal laws prohibiting the growing of hemp in that State or Tribal Territory.” — May 28 USDA Executive Summary of New Hemp Authorities

In March, the Idaho House approved an industrial hemp bill but it has not been voted on by the Senate.

At least three men have been arrested in Ada County for transporting hemp in the state. According to the report, two of them have pleaded guilty to lesser felony charges. The third, Denis Palamarchuck, has pleaded not guilty and the company he works for, Big Sky Scientific, have sued Idaho State Police in federal court. That arrest happened prior to the federal law changes but the USDA memo points out that interstate hemp transportation was also permitted under the 2014 Farm Bill. Big Sky argues that the police violated interstate commerce laws and asked for an injunction to get their product back before it’s no longer viable.

The USDA memo says the federal court erred in denying that injunction, which is currently awaiting a hearing in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Elijah Watkins, a lawyer for Big Sky, told the Ap that the USDA opinion was “welcomed news.”

“Hopefully Idaho takes note and changes course because I think it would save the Idaho taxpayer a lot of dollars on fighting a legal opinion or a legal case that seems all but conclusive at this point,” Watkins said in the report.

Republican Gov. Brad Little has indicated he would sign the hemp legalization legislation if it included amendments sought by law enforcement officials.

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