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Secretary of Agriculture disagrees with Idaho on hemp bust

Posted: 4:42 PM, May 29, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-30 04:16:29Z

BOISE — The Secretary of Agriculture says Idaho is wrong when it comes to a legal ruling on hemp, that resulted in an out-of-state truck driver being charged.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its legal opinion Tuesday on the implications of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp nationwide. Now, an attorney for Big Sky Scientific , the hemp supplier, says that legal opinion states what they have been saying all along, that they believe Idaho is wrong in issuing drug trafficking charges for transporting hemp.

"When the President signs a bill into law, it becomes law," said Elijah Watkins, Attorney representing Big Sky Scientific .

But Denis Palamarchuk, a truck driver who drove hemp through the state of Idaho for Big Sky Scientific is still being charged for doing just that.

"Unfortunately, the state of Idaho continues to press that a bill does not become law until it's printed in a paper book or updated on the internet," said Watkins.

The 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law last December, but because it hasn't been printed, the state of Idaho argues it was against the law for Palamarchuk to drive a load of hemp through the state in January.

"The 2018 Farm Bill, it says that any hemp that was produced under other federal law, constitutes valid and legal hemp that can be transported across the country right now. Other federal law would include the 2014 Farm Bill," said Watkins.

Which is what Sonny Perdue, the Secretary of Agriculture, stated in his legal opinion Tuesday, May 28th, 2019. He said "this office does not concur with the reasoning of the magistrate regarding the shipment of hemp lawfully produced under the 2014 Farm Bill."

And the legal opinion by the USDA also says, "States and Indian tribes may not prohibit the interstate transportation or shipment of hemp lawfully produced under the Agricultural Act of 2014."

"My client bought legal hemp from a farmer that was licensed to grow that hemp," said Watkins.

Now it's a topic of discussion at the Ninth Circuit Court. Big Sky Scientific is suing Idaho State Police, and the Ada County Prosecuting Attorney.

"We think that the Ninth Circuit will agree with us. Interstate Commerce allows a legal agricultural commodity, like peanuts or potatoes or raisins to be shipped on a truck, from one state to another state," said Watkins.

And hemp, under federal law, falls under the blanket of legal agricultural commodity.

Attorney Elijah Watkins said they are currently waiting on the Ninth Circuit Court to issue oral arguments in this case.

At this point, the Ada County Prosecutor is the only one with the power to drop the charges against Palamarchuk.

We reached out to the Ada County Prosecutor's Office Wednesday, and they have not responded.