Idaho farmers are one step closer to growing hemp legally, as House passes bill

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Years after the 2018 farm bill legalized hemp production at the federal level, Idaho legislators are close to lifting the state’s ban on growing the plant.

In a 44-26 vote Monday, House members approved a bill that would authorize the production, processing, transportation and research of hemp in the state. Idaho is currently the only state that hasn’t legalized industrial hemp.

House Bill 126 also would create a dedicated fund that would collect state revenues. The bill would initially cost the state $150,000 for a program manager and operations, according to the fiscal note.


The plants in Idaho would be limited to containing 0.3% THC or less — in other words, the hemp can’t get consumers high. THC is the cannabis compound that gives marijuana users a high.

Rep. Clark Kauffman, R-Filer, who sponsored the bill on the House floor, said it allows Idaho officials to “craft a hemp policy that will not run in conflict with our state drug policy.” Critics of the bill said it was too restrictive for farmers.

“Though it may seem a bit constricting, it’s a lot less constricting than we have right now, which is no production,” Kauffman said.

The bill states that any hemp growers “would need a license compliant with federal law,” and also says that the Idaho Department of Agriculture would turn in a plan for the program by Sept. 1.


Producers and transporters who violate the limit on THC “may be subject to criminal penalties for marijuana,” according to the bill. A first-time violation is a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $150, and a second-time violation would increase the fine to as much as $300. Violating the law three or more times within five years could bring a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail.

Rep. Dorothy Moon criticized the bill for regulations she believes are too tight around CBD (cannabidiol, an active ingredient derived from hemp) and the 0.3% THC threshold. The prevalence of CBD products helped drive the legalization push in recent years. Hemp has been used for centuries in clothing, paper, and construction and other materials. Its popularity has climbed with the proliferation in recent years of food and wellness products such as hemp protein powder, hemp seeds and hemp oil.


Rep. Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton, said Idaho is “a few years behind on where we should be,” but fears the 0.3% THC limitation could put farmers at risk.

Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee, said she someday hopes to grow hemp. Idaho shouldn’t deny its farmers the ability to grow an alternative, legal commodity, she said.

“It’s time to allow our farmers, all of our farmers, an ability to grow this legal crop,” Troy said.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jim Guthrie, still needs Senate approval.

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