BOISE — The Gem State will remain without a plan to transport and grow hemp after a House committee killed a bill meant to pave a path forward for farmers to begin growing hemp.
Senate Bill 1345 passed the Senate in February with a 27 to three vote but it failed to make it out of the House State Affairs Committee. On Wednesday, the committee voted the bill down with an eight to seven vote after days of hearing testimony.
The move means Idaho farmers will not be able to grow the crop, despite it being legalized across the country by the 2018 federal farm bill. Many Idaho farmers who testified said that’s unfortunate since it has the potential to be a cash crop for Idaho farmers.
“Our founding fathers grew hemp, and a draft of the U.S. Constitution was written on hemp paper. George Washington pushed for the growth of hemp as it was a cash crop commonly used to make rope and fabric,” Rep. Caroline Troy, R-Genesee, the bill’s sponsor said during the committee’s first hearing on the bill on Tuesday.
The bill would have directed the Idaho State Department of Agriculture to come up with a plan for permitting, testing and transporting hemp in Idaho. It would also define hemp as cannabis containing less than .3% THC. THC is the chemical compound in cannabis that causes someone to become high. Currently, all cannabis plants containing any THC are classified as marijuana, which is an illegal drug.
Rep. Jerald Raymond, R-Menan, testified in favor of the bill.
“Why am I standing here testifying in favor of Senate Bill 1345? It’s because the USDA has allowed (hemp) to be grown in the United States. It’s because creating a state plan is much better than hoping that the USDA will monitor and guide the production of it in the state of Idaho,” Raymond said Tuesday.
However, not everyone who testified was in favor of the bill. Some say the move is just a gateway to legalizing marijuana.
“I noticed on social media, the only ones cheering for Senate Bill 1345 right now are the same people that are pushing the marijuana legalization of Idaho. They are excited. They said the next step is medicinal and then the next step is recreational,” Laverne Sessions said in her testimony against the bill on Tuesday.
With the death of the bill, Idaho and Mississippi are now the only two states in the union that have not developed a plan to begin growing hemp.