USDA Says States Can’t Block Hemp Transports

Idaho State Police spokesperson says they will continue to make arrests

he U.S. Department of Agriculture says states can’t block the interstate transportation of hemp, but law enforcement in Idaho says it won’t follow those guidelines.

Hemp doesn’t get a person high, but it still contains trace amounts of the chemical THC, which is found in marijuana. Under Idaho law, any amount of THC is illegal.

The USDA released a memo Tuesday saying states can’t block any interstate shipment because hemp was legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill. That opinion isn’t legally binding.

But an Idaho State Police spokesperson says they will continue to make arrests and confiscate hemp while enforcing Idaho law, Boise State Public Radio reports.

The spokesperson said federal rules need to be updated to take effect, but the USDA memo says they’re essentially in effect because the bill passed Congress and was signed into law by President Donald Trump last year.

Three men are currently facing felony drug charges in Ada County for transporting what they say was hemp.

Two of them have pleaded guilty to lesser felony charges. The third man has pleaded not guilty and could face a minimum of five years in prison if convicted.

The owner of the hemp in that third case, Big Sky Scientific, sued Idaho State Police in federal court. The company said ISP had violated interstate commerce laws and asked for an injunction to get their hemp back before it degrades and molds.

The USDA memo specifically mentions that lawsuit, saying the federal judge erred in denying that injunction. It’s currently under appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and awaiting a hearing.

“Both sides of this issue have legitimate legal points,” said Sam Mendez, a lawyer in Seattle who used to run the Cannabis Law and Policy Project at University of Washington Law School.

At issue is: when does a law actually become a law? That is up to the courts, but Mendez says the overall legal question of how to transport a federally legal plant like hemp across state lines will be answered soon.

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