Three truck drivers hauling hemp through Idaho won’t face any further jail time after reaching a plea deal with Ada County prosecutors.
The trio of drivers will instead have to pay fines and serve unsupervised probation after agreeing to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges.
It’s a far cry from the felony charges they had faced, which would’ve included mandatory five-year prison sentences.
A group of lawmakers, including Assistant Minority House Leader Ilana Rubel (D-Boise), urged prosecutors to drop all charges against the men earlier this year.
“I don’t think it’s really unequivocally good news because at the end of the day, these guys are going to go out into the world with a criminal record for the rest of their lives,” Rubel said.
“The only thing that really could’ve come closest to resolving this situation was dropping the charges so that they could go on their way with a clean record and without any of the problems in terms of getting housing, getting jobs, getting occupational licensing.”
Under Idaho law, hemp is illegal even though it only has trace amounts of the psychoactive drug THC.
The 2018 federal Farm Bill legalized the plant nationwide, but Idaho law enforcement officials said regulations underpinning the bill had not been finalized and interstate transport was still forbidden.
In court documents, prosecutors say "...there was [a] considerable amount of misinformation being circulated in the national media" about the Farm Bill that could've led to confusion on the drivers' parts.
Rubel and others pushed to legalize hemp in the state earlier this year, but they ran into stiff opposition from lobbying groups associated with police and prosecutors who said it could be used to mask marijuana trafficking.
She says she expects the issue to come back next session.
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