State Politics

Gov.-elect: Idaho hemp legalization could lead to ‘camouflage for marijuana trade’

Governor-elect Brad Little on Thursday expressed caution on any efforts to legalize hemp farming in Idaho, saying it could be “camouflage for the marijuana trade.”

In July, Congress cleared the way for U.S. farmers to grow hemp, which was once illegal. Hemp comes from the same family of plants as marijuana but lacks THC, the chemical which produces a high for the user. The product can be used in food, clothing and paper, among other materials.

Little said at an Associated Press legislative preview event that he has struggled to support legalizing hemp and worries that the industrial production of hemp could allow for the smuggling of marijuana.

Even as Idaho’s neighbors Nevada, Oregon and Washington have legalized recreational marijuana, Idaho has not yielded. Gov. Butch Otter vetoed a bill that would have legalized CBD, or cannabinoid oil — a derivative of industrial hemp that some say have therapeutic uses. But he did approve use of CBD oil for children.

But Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee, told Boise State Public Radio that she will introduce a bill in the upcoming legislative session to legalize hemp.

“Any opportunity we have to help our Idaho farmers find a crop that’s economically viable for them and good for them to grow and good for their land I think we need to pursue it,” Nilsson Troy said.

Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said that she supports legalizing industrial hemp. “We have one of the best climates to grow hemp,” she said at a press event on Thursday. “For medical and economic reasons, they should be considered.”

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Kate reports on West Ada and Canyon County for the Idaho Statesman. She previously wrote for the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Center for Investigative Reporting and the Providence Business News. She has been published in The Atlantic and BuzzFeed News. Kate graduated from Brown University with a degree in urban studies.