An Idaho legislative committee has approved a bill that would legalize the cultivation of hemp in that state.

An Idaho House bill that would legalize hemp as an agricultural commodity in accordance with a new federal law now includes estimates of how much it will cost.

A fiscal note included with House Bill 122, discussed in a hearing Feb. 18, says one-time, startup costs include $100,000 for the Idaho State Department of Agriculture and for contracted experts to coordinate a plan in time for the 2020 spring growing season.

The plan would be developed with input from growers, processors, the Idaho State Police and others.

Another one-time cost is an estimated $50,000 for information technology specific to USDA requirements for hemp cultivation and other startup expenses. Initially, plant and oil samples will likely be sent to an approved testing lab, since the extent to which Idaho growers and entrepreneurs will invest in growing and processing hemp is unknown.

HB 122’s fiscal note estimates ongoing costs at $150,000 including operating expenses, salaries and benefits.

An Idaho State Department of Agriculture hemp program likely would require a full-time program manager and five full-time investigators handling compliance, information, program planning and coordination, the note said.

Current and ongoing costs would be offset at least partly by fees charged to growers, transporters and processors as determined by administrative rule-making that follows enactment of new legislation.

The 2018 federal Farm Bill authorizes the cultivation, processing and interstate transport of hemp — defined as containing less than 0.3 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — as well as products made with derivative extracts as long as legal procedures are followed.

USDA regulates hemp cultivation and processing, with participation from state agriculture and law enforcement agencies.

The Idaho proposal would conform to the federal law, and accordingly would allow derivative-extract products such as cannabidiol (CBD) oil, said Reps. Caroline Nilsson-Troy, R-Genesee, and Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, sponsors of House Bill 122.

More than a dozen people commented on the bill, mostly in favor of it, at an Idaho House Agricultural Affairs Committee hearing Feb. 18. The committee did not vote on the bill.

Committee Chairwoman Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, said additional input was needed from law enforcement and county prosecutors.

Arguments in favor of the Idaho bill included that the state must authorize hemp cultivation and processing per the new federal law; hemp shows promise even after more players enter the market and currently high prices drop; and hemp could be grown for value-added products made within the state.

Arguments against the bill included that it could make eventual marijuana legalization in the state more likely and more information is needed before Idaho growers and processors jump into a market with few acres nationwide, high prices and lack of field-related science compared to established crops.

Greg Willison, a retired farmer in New Plymouth, said he and his son profited when they grew hemp near Coos Bay, Ore., given current high prices but encountered challenges.

“There were no chemicals for weed and pest control, and we had a fight,” he said.

Idaho is known as a good area for growing seed, and hemp seed could be a good opportunity for the state, Willison said.

Only Idaho, Nebraska and South Dakota so far have not legalized hemp in some form.

field reporter, SW Idaho and SE Oregon

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