BOISE — With overwhelming support, the House Agricultural Affairs Committee on Thursday approved legislation to legalize the growth, transportation and sale of hemp in Idaho.
With just two dissenting votes from Reps. Gary Marshall, R-Idaho Falls, and Jerald Raymond, R-Menan, the bill was sent to the House floor with a “do-pass” recommendation.
HB 122, co-sponsored by Reps. Caroline Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee, and Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, would change Idaho law so that it conforms with the 2018 federal Farm Bill signed by President Trump in December. It’s also known as the Hemp Research and Development Act.
“This is a conformity bill, this is all we’ve ever wanted … just to get the ball moving forward,” Moon said.
The Farm Bill removes hemp from the Schedule 1 substance list at the federal level, and also “eliminates other barriers at the federal level to hemp research, cultivation and development,” the hemp bill’s statement of purpose reads.
The bill comes as a Colorado company is suing Idaho agencies, trying to get its shipment of 6,700 pounds of declared hemp that Idaho State Police confiscated in January during a traffic stop and arrest.
The House Agricultural Affairs Committee in February heard, during a lengthy hearing, considerable testimony, most of which was in favor of legalizing hemp, but didn’t vote on the measure.
Hemp, though it contains tiny traces of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, also found in marijuana, there’s not enough to get someone high — By law, hemp contains only 0.3 percent THC. It’s commonly found in skin products, dietary supplements and clothing accessories, among other industrial uses.
“I think it’s important to remember what hemp is and what hemp isn’t,” Nilsson Troy said. “It is now not an illegal substance in the United States … this is going to be a highly regulated crop.”
To become law, the bill needs approval from both the House and Senate, as well as the governor’s signature.
If the bill doesn’t become law, Nillson Troy said hemp in Idaho would be regulated by the federal government, rather than the state. Idaho is one of just three states where hemp remains illegal.
“I don’t want to see the feds taking things over,” Rep. Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton, said, speaking in support of the bill. “I believe our state can handle things best at the local level.”
Marshall expressed concern with the legislation, stating that given the testimony heard in committee, he believes Idaho should be cautious and wait to pass the bill.
“There’s lots of mistakes that are going to be made in this process,” Marshall said. “I don’t think it would hurt Idaho at all to be careful, to sit on the sidelines, let others make their mistakes — we’re not going to see any kind of panacea salvation for Idaho farmers. I don’t think this is the right time for Idaho to jump on this particular bandwagon.”
Nichols opposed Marshall’s remarks, stating, “I believe this is a perfect time for Idaho to jump on board with this.”
Raymond expressed concern with the “great risk” the crop poses if it reaches more than 0.3 percent THC, which would cause it to be destroyed.
“As it nears harvest, those THC levels can creep up,” Raymond said.
Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, spoke in support of the bill.
“Hemp is not a psychotropic drug, it is an industrial use,” Zito said. “Leave our farmers alone and let them do what they do best.”
Ada County public safety reporter Tommy Simmons contributed to this report.