Hemp field

Hemp grows in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The Idaho Legislature is weighing whether to legalize the crop.

The Idaho Sheriffs’ Association has announced its opposition to House Bill 122, which would legalize the production of industrial hemp in the state.

The bill lacks a mechanism for testing agricultural hemp for meeting the standards set forth by Idaho HB 122 and federal law and lacks a method to pay for staff monitoring, testing and lab analysis, association president and Kootenai County Sheriff Ben Wolfinger said in a news release.

The 2018 Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp, defined as containing no more than 0.3 percent of psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinols (THC), if growers and processors follow procedures set by USDA and state agriculture departments.

“Unlike field tests used by law enforcement to detect the presence of THC, there are no field tests that can perform quantitative analysis to determine THC concentrations,” Wolfinger said. “In fact, Idaho State Police forensic laboratories do not have the capability to do quantitative analysis in any of their labs and must send samples out of state for lab testing at considerable expense.”

However, Idaho Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, in a Feb. 18 hearing on HB 122 before the House Agricultural Affairs Committee, said there is a new roadside test that can determine THC content and distinguish hemp from marijuana.

The committee did not vote on the bill Feb. 18, a federal holiday, because it wanted more input from police and prosecutors. Only Idaho, Nebraska and South Dakota have not legalized hemp in some form.

As for funding, Wolfinger said, “It is not right that the taxpayers of Idaho should pay for these regulatory considerations and allow those few who would profit from hemp production to not be held responsible for the cost of their chosen industry.”

In its text, House Bill 122 does not establish a funding mechanism. But an attached fiscal note estimates startup and other costs, and says current and ongoing costs would be at least partly offset by fees — charged to growers, transporters and processors — as determined by administrative rule-making that follows enactment of new legislation.

“This introduction of hemp without proper safeguards in place is the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent with growing marijuana in Idaho,” Wolfinger said.

Idaho has an opportunity to be preventive as the state explores hemp, he said.

field reporter, SW Idaho and SE Oregon

Recommended for you