A Calloway, Ky., County farmer, harvests hemp in 2017 at Murray State University’s West Farm near Murray, Ky. Idaho lawmakers have approved interstate trucking of hemp, but the state remains one of the few where its cultivation is still illegal.

BOISE — Hemp transport throughout Idaho would become legal if a bill — which passed the Senate Tuesday with overwhelming support — becomes law. Hemp would still remain illegal.

“This allows us to deal with interstate transport, which as I’ve shared with you before is really important,” said Sen. Abby Lee, R-Fruitland, who sponsored the bill.

The Senate voted 31-1 to pass HB 300a. Sen. C. Scott Grow, R-Eagle, was the only vote against it.

The bill would allow the director of the Idaho Department of Agriculture to issue permits for interstate hemp transportation for out-of-state truckers. Law enforcement would inspect the trucks at check stations around the state, at ports of entry or designated stations.

The Senate-amended bill will return to the House for concurrence with the changes. As sine die nears, Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee, said it’s unclear when the House will find time to vote on whether or not to concur — the chair of the House Transportation Committee has 48 hours to call a meeting, she said. If the House concurs, the bill will be sent to the governor’s desk.

The Senate on Monday approved several changes to the bill, which included revising its fiscal note to provide $100,000 for the State Department of Agriculture to coordinate planning efforts with stakeholders to develop a U.S. Department of Agriculture-compliant plan, with a goal of having that for the 2020 spring growing season.

Once a USDA-compliant plan is created to allow for the research and production of industrial hemp “to the greatest extent allowed under federal law,” the Legislature would then determine if that plan is workable. If approved — and if hemp is removed from Idaho’s Schedule 1 substance list — farmers would be allowed to grow hemp.

The Senate’s changes added that it is the Legislature’s intent to create a state plan for hemp regulation. The plan would ensure Idaho has primacy over hemp regulation and would be created through negotiations and in consultation with Gov. Brad Little and the directors of Idaho State Police and the Department of Agriculture.

Since President Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill, U.S. states now have regulatory authority over industrial hemp. Without a USDA-approved state plan, the federal government would regulate Idaho’s hemp industry, Lee said. The government is expected to enact its hemp rules by this fall.

“Senators, this will come back to the Legislature at the early part of next session,” Lee said. “We will have the ability to make sure that this is the right state plan, but if we wait until the federal government has promulgated its rules, we lose our seat at the table, as well as our ability to really have our growers and industry at this table.”

Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, who spoke in support of the bill, said allowing the federal government to handle hemp in Idaho by implementing their plan, “probably isn’t the default decision that most of us in Idaho would agree with.”

Burgoyne expressed his appreciation for creating an Idaho-specific state plan.

“This is going to give the Legislature the opportunity next session to review those rules and a measure of control with respect to how these things develop,” Burgoyne said. “That’s very important to me, I’m sure it’s very important to many members of the Legislature.”

Lee said Idaho’s tribal lands will be able to grow hemp under the federal rules without a state plan, which is why Lee said “solving the transportation piece is necessary.”

The bill will help the state distinguish between hemp and marijuana, according to Lee.

“We have previously not had that ability, and I think that’s a significant step forward,” Lee said.

The bill is not retroactive, meaning it won’t affect three out-of-state truckers currently facing charges of transporting marijuana through Idaho, because Idaho law currently makes no distinction between hemp and marijuana.

The bill is the second hemp-related effort that’s come to the Legislature this session. The earlier proposal, HB 122, which was significantly amended in the Senate, died in the House. The original proposal would have legalized the growth, transportation and sale of hemp.

“Here we are again, and I’m hopeful that this is the effort that gets us to the finish line,” Lee said.

Savannah Cardon is the Caldwell reporter for the Idaho Press. Follow her on Twitter, @savannahlcardon, or reach her at 208-465-8172.

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