Idaho News

Idaho House passes bill to legalize hemp, put state law in line with farm bill

Hemp or pot: What’s the difference?

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Now that SC farmers can grow industrial hemp, how well do you know your cannabis?

Despite strong objections by Idaho law enforcement officials, a bill that would legalize hemp by aligning state law with the federal farm bill has passed the Idaho House.

The Post Register reported that the bill passed overwhelmingly on Monday, with only seven lawmakers voting in opposition. Republican Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy, of Genesee, is one of the co-sponsors of the bill. She says the bill supports the free market and is not an effort to legalize marijuana.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

In a letter last week, the Idaho Prosecuting Attorneys Association urged lawmakers to reject the bill.

“HB 122 includes no protections for law enforcement and will effectively legalize marijuana in the state,” the letter, dated March 15, says.

The letter said some of the sponsors of the bill had misled the public about law enforcement’s testing capabilities: Police can’t always tell the difference between marijuana and hemp by looking at it, and they don’t have any roadside tests to confirm their suspicions. A few weeks ago, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee appropriated $240,000 for three testing devices at Idaho State Police crime labs.

“All of these issues, and many more, could be resolved if a consensus bill were to be considered. Unfortunately, Idaho’s law enforcement community has been shut out of the conversation,” the letter says. It warns that Idaho’s law must provide “statutory guidance to protect the safety of the community, the grower, and law enforcement’s ability to enforce the controlled substance laws of the state.”

Twin Falls Prosecutor Grant Loebs told the Statesman that law enforcement officials pointed out the need for a system of testing, field inspection, licensing and an immediate way to destroy plants/product that contain more of the psychoactive chemical THC than the federal farm bill allows.

“We had a very comprehensive bill which added all of these things that we thought were necessary into it,” Loebs said.

He’s hopeful that these issues can be addressed by the Senate.

“I think it can be fixed in the Senate without doing any harm to the legitimate goal of allowing farmers to engage in growing this crop,” Loebs said.