Idaho House Lawmakers Kill Hemp Legalization Bill

It was a close vote, but for the time being, Idaho will not be legalizing the cultivation of hemp.
Zoe Lyons/ Shutterstock

Lawmakers in an Idaho House of Representatives legislative committee voted against a bill that would have legalized hemp agriculture in the state. The 8 to 7 vote by the House State Affairs Committee killed the measure, SB 1345, that was passed by the Idaho Senate with a vote of 27 to 5 in February.

Had the bill succeeded, farmers in Idaho would have been able to grow hemp, which was legalized by the federal government with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. The measure also directed the Idaho Department of Agriculture to develop a plan for the permitting, testing, and transportation of the crop in the state.

“Idaho agriculture lost today, bad,” said Tim Cornie, a farmer from Buhl, Idaho. “The farmer really lost.”

“I am really, really disappointed,” he added. “It’s extremely foolish.”

Republican Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy, the SB 1345’s sponsor in the House, said that the bill had been drafted with consideration for both the economic potential of the crop and concerns from law enforcement, who fear that hemp is too difficult to distinguish from marijuana.

“This is the bill that we tried to make so that it could work for everybody and work the most effectively for our farmers and our producers, but also for our law enforcement to protect our drug policies,” said Troy. 

The bill would have allowed farmers to grow hemp for grain or fiber, but would not have legalized CBD, which would have remained a Schedule 1 controlled substance under state law, although it would have been defined separately from marijuana. 

Committee Hears Two Days of Testimony

The State Affairs Committee heard two days of testimony on the bill before Wednesday’s vote, including from several farmers and agricultural groups who spoke in favor of the measure. But anti-cannabis activists and former members of law enforcement opposed the bill, saying it would lead to a “hemp-marijuana culture” in Idaho. Monte Stiles, a retired prosecutor, said that “the culture of hemp is the culture of marijuana.”

Troy addressed the concerns in her closing address to the committee.

“I want to talk about the ‘marijuana-hemp culture.’ … You can go to Albertsons, you can buy hemp hearts, you can buy hemp milk … hemp lip balm … you can even buy hemp treats for your dog,” she said. “Now you tell me how that equals a marijuana culture.”

“I don’t think any of us have any intention of opening up Idaho to marijuana,” Troy added. “We put so many sideboards on this bill, as I said, we could haul an elephant.”

But the precautions taken were not enough to ensure the passage of the bill. The vote by the committee makes Idaho one of only two states, with Mississippi, to continue the prohibition of hemp agriculture.

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