by Stephanie Root
Idaho has made the news across the nation, and at the very least into Canada, over the past week for an incident that happened in our backyard. I did a Google search and came across over 30 different newspapers who had shared the AP story, some of them small weeklies like us and some of them big time papers with big time names. My journey stopped at 30 not because I had run out of articles, but because Google said they had filtered out the rest due to the repetitive nature of the information in each article. Who knows how many news outlets it was actually covered in. Anyone not lying under a rock probably already realizes that I am talking about the seizure of a load of product that was listed as hemp. Not only was the load seized, but the driver of the truck was arrested on felony drug trafficking charges. The Idaho State Police were quick to tout the largest pot bust in the agencies history and quickly distributed pictures of the 6,700 lb load. Now the firm who owns the truck and its product is putting all of their financial might behind their employee and suing the state and Ada County for the return of their product.
Recently the National Farm Bill Act was passed, which legalized growing hemp for industrial purposes at the Federal level. The hemp plant which is another strain of Cannabis and a cousin plant to Marijuana has been a very profitable cash crop for states for decades. It is a versatile crop that has been used to make clothing, paper, rope, building materials, health products and health foods for years. In the federal bill it is now legal to grow cannabis with a THC level under three percent. Strains of Marijuana which are used to get "high" usually come in around 25 percent THC. After the arrest and seizure a spokesperson for ISP said that field tests do not determine THC levels and the agency is waiting on expedited results of further testing of the load.
The Farm Bill as a whole has been touted by all of Idaho's elected officials in Washington D.C. as a win for the state and for agriculture in general. The Farm Bill states it is up to each state to legalize the growth of hemp and as early as next week a bill aiming to do that very thing will be introduced at the State House. I have read that portions of Idaho are prime hemp growing locations, but this editorial is not about whether or not I feel that Idaho is missing out on an economic boost and tax revenue by not taking advantage of growing industrial hemp.
Idaho has a long history of going against federal law. It is ingrained in the Idaho way of life to question the authority of the federal government. Taking a look at the history books you can find examples dating back to our earliest days as a territory. Idahoans don't like being told what to do by our friends in Washington. But at what cost to the taxpayer?
So far Idaho has gone to bat on many occasions to fight federal laws and have faced hefty lawsuits, legal fees and has missed out on funding from the feds more then once.
Tonight I did research on a piece of Idaho trivia that has been on the tip of my tongue since news of this story broke. I don't remember where I originally heard it and did not have the time to fully research it like I would have liked to, but at some point in time I learned about Idaho going to bat against federal law in the seventies time frame. I feel like it was over raising the drinking age, but could also have had to do with driving ages, speed limits etc. Our state government puffed our chest and said 'you can't tell us what to do', the feds said "oh really, well we are pulling federal funding for..." I think the funding was for the transportation department and funding for building and maintaining our infrastructure. Eventually during that particular spiff we cried "uncle" and backed down.
In the more recent history there are significant examples to choose from. The fight to uphold our right to ban same sex marriages after it was ruled unconstitutional quickly comes to mind. Idaho's ban was voted for and approved as a ballot initiative so I can understand why Idaho pushed for its citizens rights in the beginning. However, by the end of the drawn out fight even conservatives who were against same sex marriages were calling on Butch Otters administration to stop the bleeding of taxpayer funds as the state lost court battle after court battle.
Another was our fight against Obamacare, not only was the state ruled against in that case, but once again taxpayer money was lost and with the refusal to expand medicaid we have missed out on federal funding. Currently we are all watching while a similar fight plays out in the Idaho Supreme Court as they have to decide whether a ballot initiative approving Medicaid expansion is constitutional.
Another example was Idaho's passing of a nullification law saying our state law trumped federal gun control laws in 2016. We were one of a few different states to pass such laws. The federal government, through Attorney General Eric Holder, was quick to declare such laws unconstitutional.
Idaho did not stop there; in recent years there has been more then one attempt to pass a bill saying the state was not beholden to follow federal laws we don’t agree with. The bill has died on the floor each time it was introduced, but with the most recent attempt being in 2018 it is safe to say it will probably be brought up again.
Currently 41 states allow the growing of hemp including all of our neighbor states. It is safe to assume this load of hemp will not be the last one that is attempted to be transported through Idaho and according to the lawsuit filed by the company it is declared right in the Farm Act that states and tribes cannot lawfully stop the transportation of hemp on Interstates traveling through our land. So the question is: how much money is the state going to spend preventing transportation of a lucrative crop that our farmers are banned from growing just because we consider its cousin a “bad seed”?