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Felony charges dropped, men who hauled hemp across Idaho get probation, no more jail time

Idaho

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In January, Idaho State Police seized nearly 7,000 pounds of cannabis from a truck headed to Colorado that was stopped for a random, routine commercial safety vehicle inspection between Boise and Mountain Home. The ISP said it was marijuana. The company transporting is said it was hemp. | Idaho State Police

BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — Three truck drivers who were arrested and initially charged with felony drug trafficking were sentenced Thursday to unsupervised probation, fines and restitution after their charges all were dropped to misdemeanors — even after two of them had already pleaded guilty to lesser felonies.

Denis V. Palamarchuk, 36, was charged with marijuana trafficking in January after 6,701 pounds of a “green, leafy substance” were found in the truck he was driving for VIP Transporter LLC of Portland. Palamarchuk claimed from the beginning that the substance was legal industrial hemp rather than marijuana. He pleaded not guilty in April.

In Idaho, any amount of THC in a product is still considered illegal, so there is no legal distinction between hemp and marijuana, despite the federal farm bill’s legalization of hemp last December. A bill that would have allowed hemp trucks to cross state lines failed to get enough support in the Idaho Legislature in April.

RELATED: Trucker faces felony for hauling what he said was hemp through Idaho. Now he’ll go to trial.

It was April 2018, before the farm bill passed, when two other men were arrested while hauling hemp through the state. Erich Eisenhart, 25, of Oregon, and Andrew D’Addario, 27, of Colorado, pleaded guilty to charges of felony possession of marijuana with the intent to deliver after traveling through Idaho from a licensed industrial hemp farm in Colorado. They were on their way to Oregon.

Neither Eisenhart nor D’Addario was present in court Thursday, when their charges were reduced to misdemeanors. The two men were allowed to withdraw their guilty pleas to the felony charges and enter new plea agreements, according to Scott Bandy, Ada County deputy prosecutor.

“The way that the farm bill is written, it leaves some gaps in implementation,” Bandy said when explaining the prosecutors’ decision to reduce the charges to misdemeanors.

Palamarchuk pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of failure to provide supporting documents in driver’s possession, as he did not have a signed bill of lading. He was granted a withheld judgment by Judge Michael Oths and given one year of unsupervised probation. He must also pay a $500 fine and $1,860 in restitution.

RELATED: Prosecutor responds to petition to drop felony charges against hemp truckers

Palamarchuk also received a 180-day jail sentence; he was given credit for five days served and the other 175 were suspended.

Palamarchuk, who drove in from Portland to be in court — and had a Russian interpreter — chose not to comment after sentencing.

“He was caught in the middle of a state law … he was operating under the assumption it was legal,” said his attorney, James Ball. “This is a very good result for him.”

At their plea hearing in April 2019, Eisenhart and D’Addario also both said they did not realize that the cargo they had was illegal.

“I possessed plants of the genus cannabis with the intention to deliver it to another party. I now know that all species under the genus cannabis are illegal and considered marijuana in this state,” Eisenhart said then.

Eisenhart and D’Addario also were granted withheld judgments by Oths, and each was given two years of unsupervised probation and a $1,000 fine. They must pay a combined restitution of $4,138.73.

Both men were given 180-day jail sentences as well, with credit granted for two days served. The other 178 days were suspended.

In May, Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, and Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, delivered a petition with more than 13,000 signatures on it urging the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office to drop felony charges against all three truck drivers.

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