AP NEWS

Federal judge won’t order return of disputed plants for now

February 21, 2019

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A federal judge has declined to order the release of more than 6,700 pounds plants that an Oregon company says is hemp but the Idaho State Police claims is marijuana.

The plants — and a semitrailer that contained them — were seized by the Idaho State Police last month near Boise. Idaho State Police said the truck contained a “green, leafy substance” containing THC and said they believed it to be the largest marijuana bust in the agency’s known history. They arrested the driver on suspicion of felony drug trafficking.

But the driver’s employer, the Portland, Oregon-based Big Sky Scientific LLC, sued the state and said the plants were hemp. The company asked Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald E. Bush to order the state to release the plants, which the company intended to use to make products worth $1.3 million. The company says the plants are legal under the new federal farm bill and they are currently deteriorating and losing value.

But Bush said in his ruling that he’s not convinced the plants were produced in accordance with the federal law because Oregon doesn’t yet have a federally approved hemp production plan. He says that means he can’t order it returned at this point in the lawsuit.

Big Sky Scientific LLC’s attorney, Elijah Watkins of the Boise law firm Stoel Rives, says the plants in the truck were previously tested several times and proven to be hemp. The Idaho State Police sent the plants for independent testing, but has refused to release the results publicly because they remain part of an investigation.

The test results were also filed with the court under seal.