BOISE — In an effort to address hemp regulation in Idaho, the Senate on Monday approved a series of changes to a House-passed hemp bill that would allow interstate transport across the state but still keep hemp illegal.
The bill, HB 300, would allow the director of the state’s Department of Agriculture to issue permits for interstate hemp transportation for out-of-state truckers, and law enforcement would inspect the trucks at checkpoints around the state. Monday’s changes bring HB 300 fairly close to the Senate-amended version of HB 122, the earlier hemp bill, which died in the House for lack of concurrence in the Senate amendments.
The amended bill still needs approval from the full Senate. If passed, it then heads back to the House for concurrence with the Senate’s changes.
According to the bill’s revised fiscal note, it now would provide $100,000 for the Idaho State Department of Agriculture to coordinate planning efforts with stakeholders such as growers, processors, the Idaho State Police, and others and to contract with experts to develop a U.S. Department of Agriculture-compliant plan with the goal of having that for the 2020 spring growing season.
Backers of the bill said the most significant change adds that it will be the Legislature’s intent to create a state plan for hemp regulation, with the goal being to legalize hemp production by the 2020 growing season. The plan, which would ensure Idaho has primacy over hemp regulation, would be created through negotiations and in consultation with Gov. Brad Little and the directors of both Idaho State Police and the Department of Agriculture.
“We want to put legislative intent language back in there to address that Idaho would like to proceed with developing a plan for hemp production in Idaho to be in place by next year’s planting season,” the bill’s House sponsor, Caroline Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee, told the Idaho Press. “Our goal is for Idaho farmers and entrepreneurs to participate in hemp production, as well.”
States have regulatory authority over industrial hemp since the 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law. However, without a USDA-approved state plan, the federal government would come in and regulate Idaho’s hemp industry, said Sen. Abby Lee, R-Fruitland.
The Senate approved several other changes, including adding the word “industrial” before hemp throughout the bill — a concern Senate Majority Leader Chuck Winder, R-Boise, expressed to the committee Monday morning.
Lee said adding “industrial” will “really give that attention to all of the uses that hemp has in our state.”
Other changes included adding foreign countries to the bill, since Canada is a producer of hemp. Provisions also were added clarifying that products already on the market containing hemp, such as skin products, dietary supplements and clothing accessories, will not be affected, so long as they contain no tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is also found in marijuana.
“We put in here really that clear language that if a truck is transporting hemp hearts, which you know go in salads, or if there are other products that have zero percent THC, that whatever is legal in the state of Idaho will continue to be legal and will not be changed to a controlled substance,” Lee said.
HB 300 was introduced shortly after big changes were made in the Senate to HB 122. The earlier versions of that bill would have legalized hemp production, transport and sale in Idaho. However, changes took away the part of the bill removing hemp from Idaho’s Schedule 1 list of controlled substances, which caused several House sponsors to withdraw sponsorship.
The bill isn’t retroactive, meaning it won’t affect out-of-state truckers accused of transporting marijuana through Idaho, because Idaho law currently makes no distinction between hemp and marijuana. Marijuana trafficking is a felony that carries a mandatory minimum five-year prison term.
“I think that’s really unfortunate, but when they brought that load through here, hemp was illegal in Idaho, and transporting hemp was illegal in Idaho,” Nilsson Troy told the Idaho Press. “There’s lots of ways they could have known it was illegal ... If you were going to come into Idaho and start smoking some pot, you couldn’t say to the police, ‘Oh, I didn’t know it was illegal in Idaho.’”