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Politics & Government

Idaho Lawmakers: Don't Prosecute Hemp Drivers

James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
From left to right, Reps. Tammy Nichols (R-Middleton), Ilana Rubel (D-Boise) and Dorothy Moon (R-Stanley) delivered 13,000 petition signatures to urge prosecutors to drop charges against men facing felony drug charges for hauling what they say was hemp.

State lawmakers and activists are urging prosecutors to drop drug dealing charges against three men who were arrested for trucking large amounts of what they said was hemp.

Reps. Dorothy Moon (R-Stanley), Tammy Nichols (R-Middleton) and Ilana Rubel (D-Boise) delivered 13,000 petition signatures to Ada County Prosecutor Jan Bennetts Tuesday afternoon as part of the effort.

Rubel, who’s a lawyer, called it a “rare scenario” that such pressure is called for when it comes to a legal decision.

“I think this really does cross the line into such an extreme injustice that it really calls for a large-scale attempt to influence the system. Injustices happen and the public has to speak up – that’s how Nelson Mandela got sprung from prison,” she said.

“These are humans’ lives we’re dealing with,” Moon added.

Because hemp has very low amounts of THC, the drug in marijuana that gets a person high, it’s still considered illegal in Idaho.

“[Hemp] has nothing to do with getting high,” Nichols said.

Two of the men, Erich Eisenhart and Andrew D’Addario, were arrested last year for hauling what they say was hemp.

They had faced felony drug trafficking charges, but both men eventually pleaded guilty to a lesser felony charge and will be sentenced in June.

The other man, Denis Palamarchuk, says he was hauling more than 6,700 pounds of industrial hemp in January when he was arrested at a commercial hauler check point east of Boise. He’s pleaded not guilty to felony drug trafficking and has a trial scheduled for October.

Earlier this year, multiple attempts to try to legalize hemp here failed at the state legislature after lobbyists for law enforcement and prosecuting attorneys wanted to keep the plant on the controlled substances list.

That leaves Idaho as one of a just a handful of states where transporting hemp – let alone growing it – remains forbidden.

Nichols called it a “very viable product” that Moon promised Idaho farmers will be growing next year, despite the political stalemate.

“It just needs to get to the governor’s desk,” Moon said. “Let them own it. Let them veto it or let him sign it on.”

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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