Idaho State Police recently made a bust, one that they termed the largest marijuana bust in the history of Idaho State. However, there’s a lot that’s at stake at the moment. Given that the Farm Bill was passed just recently, the state police might have to deal with a lot of embarrassment if it turns out that their bust is not marijuana, but hemp. Granted, it’s difficult for most people to tell the difference between hemp and marijuana at first glance.
The Idaho State Police might have some major issues, especially when you consider that the federal government just recently legalized the production and use of hemp. If this were to be the case, the damage would go beyond the embarrassment. The state police would also be looking at dealing with backlash from the society, and the fact that they would have exposed the entire department to vitriol and claims of ignorance. It would also take a lot for the state police to ensure that such a mistake doesn’t happen again in the future, which would be very difficult.
If it turns out that the bust was not marijuana but hemp, this would expose the state police to a lot of challenges. First, hemp does smell like marijuana. In fact, it also looks like marijuana. According to federal law, however, if it’s hemp but not marijuana, it’s legal.
The leeway that the state of Idaho might use is to circumvent the federal law on a technicality. While the federal law legalizing hemp came into effect on December 20, it also stated expressly that there’s a need for further regulation before this law can be operational across the country. Before the regulations are set out clearly, the state of Idaho is free to exercise its long-standing law that prohibits hemp.
Even with this statement, Idaho can only control the hemp that’s grown within its boundaries but is not allowed to interfere with any hemp that’s within the confines of interstate commerce. The company whose product was seized has since moved to court, suing the state of Idaho for interfering with their products, which contravenes the interstate commerce law.
The state sighted the prospect of collusion from different states, barring trucks from passing through their borders. If this were to happen, many businesses would suffer. Such a case is bound to have ramifications all across the country and has since been termed a landmark case. The case is, in essence, more than just about the hemp in custody, but about sovereign jurisdiction, and how this would affect commerce.
The fact remains that state law will almost certainly be trumped by federal law. If it turns out that the bags that were confiscated contained hemp only, and not marijuana, the state of Idaho is looking at damages, especially if the hemp goes bad because it’s perishable. Apart from that, the state would also have to fast track a process of identification, so that they have a process in place to test and determine whether whatever they seize is hemp or marijuana.