BOISE — The effort to legalize hemp in Idaho moved forward Jan. 21.
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee introduced a bill that would remove hemp from the Schedule I substances list and allow transportation and production in the state.
Rep. Dorothy Moon, who sponsored the bill, said it’s needed to conform with the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp federally.
“We want to open opportunities for our farmers and give them an alternative crop and let them do what’s best for their financial situation,” said Moon, R-Stanley.
Moon’s bill aligns Idaho with federal regulations. It includes an emergency clause that would allow farmers to begin growing the crop this year.
The House approved a similar bill last year that stalled after the Senate changed it.
Senate leadership will decide which committee the bill comes back to, Health and Welfare Chairman Fred Martin, R-Boise, said. Recent federal action may improve the bill’s chances this year, Martin said.
“With the Farm Bill passing, I think its going to be a little bit easier this year,” he said.
Hemp looks similar to marijuana but contains less than 0.3% THC, the chemical that gives marijuana its psychoactive properties. Farmers want to grow the versatile crop as a grain that can be used for industrial and manufacturing purposes. They say it could help support their farms and boost the economy.
Opponents have said hemp legalization would make it harder for the state to enforce marijuana laws.
The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the Schedule I substances list — heroin, LSD and ecstasy are Schedule I drugs — and legalized hemp throughout the country. States could choose to develop hemp rules but Idaho has yet to act.
Recent federal rule changes prevent states from prohibiting transportation of hemp. Gov. Brad Little signed an executive order in November to issue a temporary rule to allow transportation throughout the state, but said that it was only a place holder until the Legislature made a more permanent decision.
Since 2018, three truck drivers have been arrested in Idaho for transporting hemp through the state. Felony charges were dropped against the drivers, though they received misdemeanors in a plea deal.
The business news you need
With a weekly newsletter looking back at local history.