Ada County and the Idaho State Police are taking flack – unwarranted, in our opinion -- for their enforcement and prosecution of three out-of-state truckers who were transporting industrial hemp through Idaho.
First off, let’s separate out the emotionalism and politics of marijuana in this matter. The issue here is about constitutional process.
For background, a year ago in April, two truckers were arrested in Idaho for carrying a shipment of industrial hemp to Oregon from Colorado. Later, this January, a separate trucker was arrested when he declared his shipment of hemp at a port of entry in Ada County. The first two have pleaded down to a lesser felony, possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, and are to be sentenced this month; and the third faces a September court date for felony trafficking.
In response to a petition of more than 13,000 signatures calling for charges to be dropped, the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office and Idaho State Police released a statement:
“Those of us who enforce Idaho’s laws are bound by the laws which currently exist, not those which may exist at some future date,” according to the statement. “We understand the desire to provide a legal pathway for an alternative crop for Idaho’s farmers and for those who transport it across state lines. We are currently conducting research and working to develop a solution. We continue to be committed, as we have been, to establishing a legal framework to provide a solution to this issue going forward.”
Both agencies are doing their job in upholding the laws set forth by the Idaho Legislature; they don’t make the policy, they enforce it. From the evidence presented, the extent of which the public is not fully aware of, the court will make its judgment. That’s how the system works, with each having its role to fulfill. We’re not some Banana Republic where cops act as judge and jury out of public sight on lonely stretches of highway, or to the whims of public petitions driven by the emotions of the moment.
We praise Ada County and ISP for keeping within their constitutionally defined roles. More than protecting a process proven to work, their “sticking to their guns” avoids a potentially nasty precedent to be set that could undermine all drug trafficking prosecutions within Idaho.
Rather than have our public officials undermine our process of government, those 13,000 petition signers should instead have put forth some cash to help these truckers receive the best defense possible, allowing the court to exercise its discretion and potential leniency in sentencing.
From these cases, Idaho law obviously needs modification to allow for interstate commerce of industrial hemp through here between legalized states. Idaho should be a good neighbor and not encumber commerce with bypassing our state to complete its transit. Establishing a standard for inspection and secured transport would also avoid the costs and personnel time associated with enforcing and prosecuting these shipments.
That’s something our legislators, working with law enforcement and county prosecutors, should hammer out next session in short order.