Hemp or pot: What’s the difference?
The Senate on Monday approved legislation to legalize hemp, but the bill it appears to be in trouble in the House.
The Senate voted 32-3 to approve a bill that would legalize the growing and selling of hemp products containing 0.3% or less of THC, the cannabis compound that gives marijuana its high.
Backers say the state needs to pass legislation that conforms with federal law on hemp while maintaining the state’s prohibition on marijuana. Congress late last year passed a new farm bill that effectively legalized hemp.
“The problem is, right now, our law doesn’t differentiate,” said Republican Sen. Jim Rice. “Under our current code, hemp is marijuana.”
Oregon and Kentucky are big producers of hemp, and much of what they grow is processed in Colorado. Companies rely on interstate trucking to transport the plant and often drive through Oklahoma and Idaho, where some truck drivers have been arrested.
Backers of legalizing hemp in Idaho say the state’s climate is ideal for growing hemp, and farmers could sell hemp seeds and a hemp-derived extract called cannabidiol, or CBD, which is seen by many as a health aid.
In its purified distilled form, CBD oil commands thousands of dollars per kilogram, and farmers can make more than $100,000 an acre growing hemp plants to produce it. That distillate also can be converted into a crystallized form or powder.
Opponents say legalizing hemp could make it more difficult to enforce the state’s marijuana laws.
The bill was amended in the Senate to address those concerns by law enforcement officials as well as Republican Gov. Brad Little, who last week said he was chagrined with the House version because it didn’t include law enforcement provisions.
Republican Rep. Dorothy Moon said Monday that the Senate amendments changed the bill too much, and she withdrew as one of the sponsors, along with other House members.
Moon said rewriting of the bill to meet concerns of law enforcement officials made the bill a law enforcement bill rather than the agriculture bill she put forward.
The amended bill “makes hemp illegal to grow, possess and transport in Idaho,” she said.