The decades-long struggle to reintroduce industrial hemp cultivation to Idaho may soon be over.
Idaho is the only remaining U.S. state where hemp continues to be illegal, but perhaps not for long. While a 2019 effort to legalize hemp failed after heavy criticism by police and prosecutors, Idaho’s Senate last week voted 30-5 in favour of a subsequent bill. HB 126, the bill for the Industrial Hemp Research and Development Act, had already previously been passed in the House.
The Idaho Farm Bureau welcomed the Senate vote.
“It has taken time, but a responsible, balanced policy that allows for a new industry in the state while also respecting Idaho’s drug policy has been produced,” IFB stated. “It truly has been a team effort with input from many dedicated individuals.”
Just one hurdle remains – will Governor Brad Little sign the bill, which is now on his desk or will be very soon, into law?
The Governor has expressed concerns in the past about hemp, worrying it could be “camouflage for the marijuana trade.” However, in 2019 he issued an executive order as a stopgap measure to address issues relating to the interstate transportation of hemp through Idaho and another in January of this year of a similar nature to address conflicts between state and federal law.
Last year Governor Little reiterated and clarified his stance, stating he was “fine with hemp” as long as it wasn’t camouflage for marijuana.
It’s widely expected the Governor will sign HB 126 into law given its broad support and compromise. While it will be more restrictive than programs in other states, it’s a start and will give Idaho’s farmers another crop to tinker with.
The state’s Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee has also passed the funding/appropriation for Idaho State Department of Agriculture to carry out the oversight and regulatory aspects of HB 126. $150,000 has been earmarked to cover the cost of hiring a program manager, to contract for inspection and sampling, and other startup costs associated with the program.
Should the Governor give the green light, the Idaho Department of Agriculture will submit a plan for the program by the beginning of September this year.