Hemp field

Idaho legislators earlier delayed a committee vote on a bill that would legalize hemp.

The Idaho House Agricultural Affairs Committee March 2 approved a bill that would legalize industrial hemp.

Five members voted to advance the bill out of committee but said they may oppose it in the full House.

The 14-member committee Feb. 24 approved a motion by Rep. Gary Marshall, R-Idaho Falls, to postpone the vote to March 2.

Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, said Feb. 24 she would like to know the official position of the Idaho State Police and whether ISP would need to sign off on the State Department of Agriculture industrial-hemp plan House Bill 126 proposes.

Some House Ag members Feb. 24 supported the bill. Others said it is too long and should remove hemp from the Schedule 1 list of banned substances.

Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth, said he would support a bill that removes hemp from the list, “but it probably wouldn’t make it through the Legislature.”

“I get the concern that it doesn’t take it off Schedule 1, and that it is restrictive,” said committee Vice Chairman Kevin Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs. “We have to go here before we get less restrictive in the future.”

The 2018 federal Farm Bill legalized hemp. The Idaho Legislature in 2020 and ’19 considered but did not pass hemp-legalization bills. Gov. Brad Little issued an executive order authorizing interstate transport of hemp.

HB 126 would allow industrial hemp production, processing, transportation and research. It would authorize the Agriculture Department to set up a USDA-complying program and licensing system in consultation with ISP, the governor’s office and the agriculture industry.

Licensees would be exempt from Schedule 1. Rule-making would occur through a negotiated process involving stakeholders, common in the state’s agencies.

ISP stated it would comply with the bill if passed, allow a state plan to be created and submitted to USDA, and recognize industrial hemp production, processing, transportation and research as legal, pursuant to a license.

HB126 defines hemp as any part of the Cannabis sativa L plant — including seeds, derivatives, extracts and cannabinoids, whether or not they are growing — with delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of no more than the federal standard of 0.3% on a dry-weight basis.

Braden Jensen of the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation said USDA’s January 2021 final rules say a crop exceeding 0.3% THC must be destroyed, but the federal rules protect growers acting in good faith.

He told Capital Press HB126 would not legalize retail sale or possession of cannabidiol (CBD) with a THC concentration above 0% but below 0.3%. It would allow producers to grow industrial hemp for any purpose — fiber, grain or CBD — but would require CBD that contains THC to be sold out-of-state only.

Hemp is legal in some form in 49 states, two U.S. territories, and more than 40 tribes including the Nez Perce in Idaho, Jensen said,

“We feel that Idaho farmers deserve that same opportunity to make that choice for themselves,” he said. HB126 “is a reasonable way to start that process, to allow for production of industrial hemp while maintaining a strong and enforceable drug policy.”

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