BOISE — A proposal to legalize the production and processing of industrial hemp in Idaho crossed its first major hurdle Thursday, passing the Senate on a 27-5 vote.
The legislation, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Caroline Troy, R-Genesee, and Sen. Abby Lee, R-Fruitland, now moves on to the House.
The bill directs the Idaho Department of Agriculture to submit a state plan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture by June 15, detailing how Idaho intends to regulate hemp.
During her floor debate, Lee noted that a state plan must be adopted before Idaho can regulate the product on its own. Absent that, Idaho farmers who want to produce, sell or process hemp would be regulated under federal rules.
The plan would be developed by the Idaho State Police, governor’s office and Department of Agriculture, in conjunction with growers and industry representatives. Idaho’s rules, she said, would not be more stringent than federal law.
The goal is to have a regulatory structure in place no later than the spring of 2021.
One of the chief criticisms of the bill, Lee said, is that it doesn’t remove hemp from the list of Schedule 1 drugs, nor does it legalize CBD oil.
She and Troy tried to bring legislation last year that addressed CBD, as well as industrial hemp. However, it ran into numerous roadblocks and ultimately failed.
“This year we’re back with strictly an agricultural bill,” Lee said. It legalizes the production and processing of the commodity only under certain circumstances; any hemp activities that don’t conform with the state regulations would remain illegal and be treated as a misdemeanor.
Sen. Carl Crabtree, R-Grangeville, voted against the bill; Sens. David Nelson, D-Moscow, and Dan Johnson, R-Lewiston, supported the measure.