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Idaho Legislature sends bill to legalize industrial hemp to Gov. Brad Little’s desk

Idaho

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The Fletchers have a 30-acre farm in Vale, Oregon, and commute from their home in Boise to cultivate hemp. They said they would have started a hemp operation in Idaho if the law allowed it. | Courtesy Luke Fletcher

BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — Patty Fletcher and her husband, Randy, reminisced about farming again, recalling the days they grew alfalfa in California decades ago. The Boise couple wanted to return to the lifestyle.

“Working the soil, just growing things is a fun thing to do,” Randy Fletcher said in an interview with The Statesman last month. They finally landed on cultivating hemp, a versatile and popular plant.

The only problem? It wasn’t legal in Idaho. In 2019, the Fletchers instead bought a 30-acre farm across the border in Vale, Oregon. They still maintain their residence in Boise.

Two years after the Fletchers developed their farm in another state, Idaho is on its way to legalizing industrial hemp.

“I guess, as they say, better late than never,” Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon, said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

The Senate in a 30-5 vote approved a bill that would authorize the production, processing, transportation and research of hemp in the state. It now heads to Gov. Brad Little’s desk.

HOW IDAHO’S HEMP BILL WORKS

House Bill 126 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.

Idaho is the only state that hasn’t legalized hemp after the 2018 farm bill legalized production at the federal level. But some critical House members, parroting the Idaho Freedom Foundation, said the bill is too heavy-handed on government regulations and doesn’t address confusion around CBD oil.

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

Hemp samples are subject to analysis. Producers and transporters who violate the limit on THC may face “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.

FLETCHER’S CUSTOMERS FIND PAIN RELIEF, FAMILY SAYS

Guthrie, who sponsored the bill on the Senate floor, reiterated that the goal was to legalize hemp while also maintaining Idaho’s strong drug laws. While hemp produces THC, it does not produce enough THC to create a high. Industrial hemp is defined to have no more than 0.3% THC in the U.S.

The Fletchers now eagerly await to see how Idaho approaches hemp cultivation. They said they hope to see Idaho learn from other states. Luke Fletcher, the son of Patty and Randy, said he believes it’ll be a hard market for Idaho to break into now that there’s an abundance of hemp elsewhere.

Patty Fletcher said the most satisfying part of the hemp farm is seeing how their products have helped their customers — such as gel caps for anxiety or other hemp products that relieve sore joints. She said she hopes more Idaho residents can soon have access to hemp products.

“Nobody should be denied something that could possibly help them,” Patty Fletcher said.

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