Two commercial truckers are facing trial after unwittingly transporting industrial hemp with THC content above the legal limit
Commercial truckers Tadesse Deneke and Farah Warsame have had an extended introduction to the American prison system for the last month. Not long before their imprisonment, the two men were hired to haul a trailer from Kentucky to Colorado. To their bewilderment, the men were accompanied by a security dispatch.
The drivers were pulled over on Wednesday morning, January 9, in Osage County for a routine traffic violation. They were then arrested on charges of trafficking over 1,000 pounds of marijuana. The shipment contained 17,258 pounds of legal hemp, almost nine tons.
In December, the U.S. Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill, which federally legalized the transportation of hemp, prohibiting prosecution of hemp growers. Oklahoma also recently passed legislation on a pilot industrial hemp program, allowing the state to impose fines only for hemp that tests over 1 percent THC. The federal threshold for illegal THC content in hemp is 0.3 percent.
Samples of the marijuana transported by Deneke and Warsame registered at 0.4 percent and 0.5 percent. The Pawhuska Police Department, leading the investigation, seized the shipment and imprisoned the truckers, setting the bail at $40,000.
The security team which accompanied Deneke and Warsame on their job posted bail shortly after the arrest. The two truckers are American transplants, moving from Africa to find work and education, according to the Tulsa World. Both men have dependents, in the United States and in Africa, that are put in jeopardy by their imprisonment.
The two men, who were simply told to perform a job, had little idea of the risk. The truckers were caught in the crossfire of federal and local bureaucracy that is struggling with the growing pains of a nation still caught in the grip of the “war on drugs.”
This is not an isolated incident. Truck driver Denis Palamarchuck was arrested while going through a routine inspection at an East Boise weigh station. He faces a minimum of five years in prison. The THC concentration found in his 4.5 ton load was .043 percent. This registers significantly lower than the federal limit of 0.3 percent, but Idaho law enforcement has stated they will continue to impose a strict marijuana policy.
Denis Palamarchuk was able to post a $100,000 bail after four days. Unfortunately for Deneke and Warsame, they were forced to wait a month until they were released on their own recognizance. The Osage County District Attorney published this statement:
“Through the of course of our investigation, we have begun to question the involvement of the drivers of the truck. We asked for their cooperation in the investigation. They have now given that cooperation to us. Charges are still pending against all four individuals. But the investigation will continue and we will continue to look at the culpability of each individual.”
The two drivers will return for their hearing on March 22.