Legislation to legalize hemp introduced in Idaho Senate

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Three out-of-state truck drivers were arrested on misdemeanor charges for transporting hemp across the Idaho border in September 2019. The drivers initially faced felony charges, but struck plea bargains with prosecutors that lowered charges to misdemeanors. 

Despite the deal made with drivers, the plea agreements made clear that despite a federal law legalizing the transport of hemp through state lines, hemp is still illegal in the state of Idaho. 

Idaho Rep. Dorothy Moon brought forward a bill that, if passed, would legalize the growth and production of hemp and hemp-based products. The legislation was created to align with federal law contained in the 2018 Federal Farm Bill.

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted to clear the way for a hearing on the bill within the legislature.

The bill would change Idaho law to allow farmers to grow and sell hemp products containing 0.3% or less tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound in marijuana that causes psychoactive effects.

According to Moon, there is an emergency clause in the bill that will allow farmers to begin hemp production this year.

“It gives [farmers]an option to try a different product if they so desire,” Moon said during a press conference. “I think it’s important we give them those opportunities since everybody else is making hay, more or less, with hemp.”

There were several attempts to legalize hemp during last year’s legislative session. Since the bill was introduced early in the legislative session, Moon believes there is a better chance of it passing.

I’m excited the Senate has heard this bill early, and hopefully it will move through both chambers quickly and we’ll get it to the governor’s desk,” Moon said during the press conference.

Supporters of the bill have said Idaho’s climate is ideal for growing hemp. Farmers could sell hemp seeds and a hemp-derived extract called cannabidiol (CBD), which is used by many as a health aid.

Sen. Grant Burgoyne is publically supportive of CBD use and belives that hemp legalization could lead to increased medical use of these products. 

“Unfortunately, the federal government continues to put us in the position of having products on the market that may have beneficial effects,” Burgoyne said. “But we really don’t know as much about them as we should. And, and that makes me a little unhappy and uncomfortable.”

The law in Idaho states that even barely detectable traces of THC classifies hemp and CBD as marijuana, which is illegal in Idaho. Manufacturers selling hemp-based products must ensure that the products contain no trace of THC before going on the market. Burgoyne says Moon’s bill will change Idaho law in conformity with the Federal Farm Bill by removing hemp as a Schedule 1 drug.

“At that point, we don’t have to have 100% guarantee there’s absolutely not one single little molecule with THC in this stuff,” Burgoyne said. “And the other thing is, at point 0.3%, there is no danger of THC creating any psychoactive effects for those who consume CBD oil or any other hemp products.” 

Opponents said legalizing hemp could make it more difficult to enforce the state’s marijuana laws. – that is Republican Gov. Brad Little’s primary concern regarding the bill. Any attempt to legalize hemp would have to find a solution before Little would sign such a bill into law.

Twin Falls prosecutor Grant Loebs, the chairman of the media committee for the Idaho Prosecuting Attorneys Association, said the association is not opposed to legalizing hemp if the process complies with the necessary regulations.

“If there is a desire to allow legitimate farmers and legitimate businessmen to engage in the production and sale of hemp, and that’s what the goal of the legislation is, I see no reason why there can’t be legislation designed to meet that goal,” Loebs said.

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