Sen. Mitch Mc Connell wants to help fix the problems in the bill that he also voted to pass.
Idaho State Police inspected a truck on I-84 outside Boise in late January that was driven by Denis Palamarchuk. The truck was stopped at a state port of entry, where the law enforcers discovered 6,700 lbs of marijuana in his rig. During the interrogation, Palamarchuk said that he was transporting hemp from one licensed company to another, but the law enforcers declared that he was ferrying illegal cannabis across the state.
Well, without considering the claims from both parties, it is good to mention that it is illegal to possess or transport any biomass that contains THC even in trace amounts in Idaho. Therefore, Palamarchuk was put into custody and charged in court with felony drug trafficking.
Palamarchuk’s case has brought tension since it falls in an area within which the agricultural regulators and law enforcement authorities have been battling in early 2019: What does the latest development mean for interstate commerce, now that production of hemp is legal in the U.S.?
A licensed farm based in Oregon had hired Palamarchuk to deliver hemp plants to Big Sky Scientific in Aurora, Colo. With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, both the Colorado CBD product manufacturer and the truck driver still insist that it was legal to transport the hemp across state lines since the bill legalized hemp. However, the law enforcers in the state of Idaho seem to see the whole matter differently.
Consequently, it is not easy to understand how the law will ultimately interpret the case, as the follow-through by the Farm Bill’s administration has not yet materialized. The 2018 Farm Bill features provisions that hemp is legal, but the legality of hemp-derived CBD products depends on the FDA-oversight. Palamarchuk and other truck drivers are still facing jail time for handling hemp plant, and the bill provides that hemp production is legal. In January this year, other four men were arrested in Oklahoma and charged for transporting more than 17,000 lbs of hemp plant to a Colorado-based manufacturer from Kentucky.
According to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, there are still some ‘glitches’ that needs to be addressed on the bill that he also participated in passing last year. This week, he also hinted that federal legislative guidance on the transportation of hemp across states as what needs to be fixed.
“We are in a dangerous area, but there are some issues, and some may even require legislation. If the glitches require legislation, I am ready to do it.” Said McConnel in a report first published on the Louisville Courier Journal.
Law enforcement has been among the more nuanced aspects of Hemp legalization. It is hard to clearly assess whether a plant is hemp plant that complies with the Farm Bill or THC-containing marijuana. The physical distinction that should occur quickly after a traffic stop is complicated while the legal distinction is also murky enough.
According to the 2018 Farm Bill and other legal sources, hemp does not contain 0.3-percent THC or less. Any plant material that exceeds the set threshold is considered marijuana and thus falls under marijuana statutes of the state and under the Controlled Substance Act in federal law. The integration of the legal definition by law enforcement agencies is a task that has been forced into police departments after the passing of the Farm Bill in the U.S.. As the Courier Journal claims, hemp is facing all sort of snares that in one way or another frustrated federally illegal cannabis businesses under the federal law, like difficulty in obtaining crop insurance or lack of banking access.
Some of U.S states, including Texas, Kentucky, Ohio, and Florida have been enacting their legislations on hemp production to develop regulations that will enable farmers to venture into the industry. However, these laws must be approved by the U.S Department of Agriculture first. But the USDA is yet to write a set of rule to tie those legislations together and govern a local hemp industry. Thus, a truck driver hired to transport hemp plant material across state lines is not entirely aware of the laws in place.
It is also yet to be seen how the Congress or USDA handles the interstate commerce question.
Meanwhile, Palamachuk is still stuck in the middle of the entire discussion. The Idaho law enforcers filed to be allowed to seize his truck and sell it. Thus, he will be arraigned in Fourth District Court in Idaho on 16th April.
The lawmakers in the state of Idaho are in the process of developing an interstate transportation bill that will allow the Idaho Department of Agriculture to give permits for such shipments and grant law enforcement authority to inspect them. Unfortunately, these changes are not likely to happen in time to impact the criminal case facing Palamarchuk.
Moreover, Big Sky Scientific, which is the company that was to receive the hemp shipment has also filed a civil lawsuit against the law enforcement in Idaho State over the seizure of their consignment.
According to the lawsuit, “blocking the transportation of hemp in interstate commerce is prohibited under the provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill.” “Besides, states are not allowed to prohibit the transportation of legal shipment through interstate commerce under the Commerce Clause, notwithstanding the 2018 Farm Bill.”
The passage of 2018 Farm Bill came as the beacon of good news to business owners in an industry that is familiar with uncertainty. However, the legalization of industrial hemp in the U.S made things even more complicated at least for the moment.
Greg Ibach, U.S Department of Agriculture Undersecretary, echoed the call by Sen. McConnell’s to have the issues on the bill addressed during the Kentucky hemp forum earlier last week. “Addressing the issues on the Farm Bill is an area where the federal agencies can work together with the USDA to help them understand hemp and develop ideal testing guidelines that may be used on the traffic to differentiate hemp from other illegal products,” said Greg, while talking to Associated Press.