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'An embarrassment to the State of Idaho:' Petition calls for charges to be dropped against hemp truckers

More than 1,850 people have signed a petition asking prosecutors to dismiss the charges against three men who were arrested after crossing into Idaho with what they say were truckloads of hemp.
Credit: Idaho State Police
Photo of the hemp seized by Idaho State Police during a traffic stop in January, 2019.

BOISE, Idaho — More than 1,850 people have signed a petition asking prosecutors to dismiss the charges against three truck drivers who were arrested after crossing into Idaho with what they said were truckloads of hemp. 

"Hemp has been legalized at the federal level and is legal in nearly every other state," organizers wrote in the Change.org petition. "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."

MORE: 'It is up to them to understand the law:' Idaho prosecutors charge hemp under drug statutes

The men referenced in the petition, Andrew D’Addario, Erich Eisenhart, and Denis Palamarchuk, were all charged under Idaho's marijuana trafficking statute. 

Like marijuana, hemp comes from the cannabis plant, but contains very low levels of THC and is grown primarily for its use as fiber. Hemp was federally reclassified from a Schedule I drug to an agricultural product in December 2018.

Idaho law, however, in written in such a way that any part of a cannabis plant with any detectable amount of THC - no matter how minuscule - is considered marijuana and prosecuted according to drug statutes. 

RELATED: Hemp vs. Marijuana: What's the difference?

Eisenhart and D’Addario were both arrested in April 2018, before the changes to the Farm Bill went into effect. Both have pleaded guilty to felony drug charges, and are set for sentencing in June. 

Palamarchuk, on the other hand, was arrested in January, one month after his truckload of hemp was legalized on a federal level. 

Idaho State Police arrested him anyway. State authorities maintain that Idaho's definition of marijuana supersedes the federal changes, meaning that hemp remains illegal in the state. 

PREVIOUS: Hemp trucker pleads not guilty to drug trafficking charge

Scott Bandy, a prosecutor in Ada County, told KTVB after Palamarchuk's arrest that it didn't matter whether the trucker believed his cargo was legal. 

"It is up to them to understand the law, there is no good-faith exception," Bandy said. "It is still illegal in Idaho, and they should do their research."

State legislators vowed to address the discrepancy between Idaho and U.S. hemp laws, but ended the 2019 session and headed home without making any changes.

MORE: Idaho Legislature's inaction on hemp creates 'unnecessary chaos,' senator warns

Now, those backing the Change.org petition are pinning their hopes on Ada County Prosecutor Jan Bennetts to dismiss the charges against the three truckers. 

"It is cruel to upend these men’s lives in the current manner, and frankly, it is an embarrassment to the State of Idaho," the petition reads, addressing Bennetts. "You are the only player in our legal system who has the power to fix the situation and ensure they can go on with their lives without a criminal record from these events. Please wisely use the discretion that you have been given, and drop the charges immediately."

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