BOISE — After a shipment of hemp arrived in Boise months ago through the mail, prosecutors in Ada County declined to press charges against the Oregon business that sent it.
It’s another example of the complications created by the fact that while hemp is legal at the federal level, and in every state surrounding Idaho, the substance is still illegal within the state boundaries.
The incident began May 29, when Boise police responded to a shipping facility after receiving a call about 17 boxes containing 69 pounds of suspected marijuana, according to Haley Williams, department spokeswoman. As first reported by CBS 2News, police took the boxes into custody, and they were tested for the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. The chemical is also present in industrial hemp — legalized on the federal level under the 2018 Farm Bill — although THC content must be 0.3 percent or less for the substance to be considered hemp.
Although early tests showed the substance in the shipment to Boise was “marijuana or resins thereof,” later tests determined it met the federal definition of hemp, according to Williams. By Idaho law, though, any substance containing THC is illegal, and considered marijuana.
An Ontario, Oregon, business had sent the packages, bound for multiple other states, according to Williams, and the sender never intended them to pass through Idaho.
On June 11, police forwarded the results of their investigation to the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office. In criminal cases, prosecutors are the ones who determine if a crime was committed, based on the information they receive from police.
In this case, prosecutors noted there was no suspect in the case, according to Bethany Calley, spokeswoman for the office.
“The (Ada County Prosecutor’s Office) would not screen this case because although a crime may have been committed in another state, it was not committed in Idaho,” Calley wrote in an email to the Idaho Press.
Thus, Calley confirmed, the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office did not have jurisdiction in the case.
The Boise Police Department returned the packages to the business, Williams confirmed.
HEMP LAWS IN LIMBO
Calley’s remark about lacking jurisdiction in the case is key — because prosecutors have filed charges against others transporting hemp through Ada County. The difference is those three cases — from April 2018 and this past January — involved truckers physically moving the hemp through the county themselves in semitrailers. Prosecutors initially charged each of the people in those cases with drug trafficking in marijuana.
In the mail shipment case, however, “the owner/shipper did not have the intent that his product ever come to Idaho, was not sending to a location in Idaho, and did not cause it to come into Idaho,” according to Calley’s email.
Idaho is one of only a few states in which hemp is illegal in any form. The dissonance between Idaho law and the laws of federal and state governments has created complications for prosecutors when faced with a hemp-related case. Calley herself mentioned the lack of guidelines to the Idaho Press.
“Until there is a framework making hemp transport through Idaho legal, any substance with any amount of THC is an illegal substance and by Idaho law is treated as a controlled substance which may not be possessed or delivered in or through Idaho,” Calley wrote.
Efforts by the Idaho Legislature to legalize hemp were unsuccessful this past legislative session. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last month heard arguments in a civil case related to an Idaho State Police seizure of roughly 6,700 pounds of hemp in January — a seizure ending in the arrest of the truck’s driver. The circuit court, however, declined to issue an opinion on the case, and on Sept. 3 ruled the matter should be decided by a state court.
All three truckers with open criminal cases against them in Ada County as a result of the transport of hemp are scheduled to appear in court Sept. 17.