BOISE — Two men have been charged with trafficking marijuana into Idaho even though they say they were transporting immature hemp plants from one out-of-state farm to another.
Police in Ada County arrested Andrew D’Addario, of Colorado, and Erich Eisenhart, of Oregon, after an April traffic stop, the Idaho Press reported Wednesday.
Officers observed a truck with the two men inside parked in a parking lot, said prosecutor Jill Longhurst. Officers noticed the smell of marijuana from the truck, and the two men appeared nervous, she said.
When officers searched the truck, they found 915 live marijuana plants, Longhurst said. D’Addario and Eisenhart were transporting the plants for money, she claimed.
But defense attorney George Patterson contends the two men were hauling immature hemp plants from Colorado to Oregon, an assertion echoed by Paul D’Addario, Andrew D’Addario’s father.
While hemp does contain minuscule amounts of THC, the same chemical found in marijuana, it is not considered intoxicating and is legal in many states.
“I’ve spoken to the farmer who actually grew these plants,” Patterson said. “He’s got a farm in Colorado and he has one in Oregon, and that’s where they were going. They were transporting hemp plants, immature hemp plants, for plantation in Oregon. The hemp plant, when mature, has about 0.1, 0.3 percent of THC in it.
“The greater marijuana plant has about 25 percent. You can’t smoke hemp. The best you’re going to get out of that is a horrible headache. It’s not worth anything on the street, but it has many, many industrial uses.”
The two men were indicted by a grand jury in August. They pleaded not guilty to trafficking between 1 and 5 pounds of marijuana.
A jury trial is set to begin Jan. 23. If found guilty, they face a mandatory minimum of five years in prison.
Idaho is one of only a few remaining states where industrial hemp is illegal, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. At least 41 states have passed legislation legalizing the plant, according to the conference. All states bordering Idaho have legalized hemp.
But a provision of the farm bill that received final approval in Congress on Wednesday removes hemp from the list of federally controlled substances and treats the low-THC version of the cannabis plant like any other agricultural crop.
Hemp farmers will be able to buy crop insurance, apply for loans and grants, and write off their business expenses on their taxes like any other farmer.
President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law next week.