BOISE — Growing hemp would be legal in Idaho under proposed legislation introduced Tuesday.

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted to clear the way for a hearing on the bill brought forward by Republican Rep. Dorothy Moon.

The legislation aims to align state law with federal law contained in the 2018 Farm Bill. It would change Idaho law to allow the growing and selling of hemp products containing 0.3 percent or less of THC, the cannabis compound that gives marijuana its high.

Moon said the legislation has an emergency clause that would allow Idaho farmers to grow hemp this year if signed into law.

“It gives (farmers) an option to try a different product if they so desire,” she said after introducing the bill and leaving the meeting. “I think it’s important we give them those opportunities since everybody else is making hay, more or less, with hemp.”

Backers of legalizing hemp said the state’s climate is ideal for growing hemp. 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 said legalizing hemp could make it more difficult to enforce the state’s marijuana laws. Republican Gov. Brad Little earlier this year said that’s his primary concern, and any attempt to legalize hemp would have to find a solution before he could sign such a bill into law.

An attempt to legalize hemp was one of the top topics in the Legislature last year, and it failed mainly because of Little’s concerns, which are shared by law enforcement officials.

Moon said getting the bill introduced early in this year’s legislative session improves the chances of getting it passed.

“I’m excited the Senate has heard this bill early, and hopefully it will move through both chambers quickly and we’ll get it to the governor’s desk,” she said.

Federal law prevents states from prohibiting the transportation of legal hemp, according to the 2018 Farm Bill. But Idaho’s anti-marijuana laws are so broadly written that they include hemp.

In January 2019, Idaho authorities arrested a truck driver and seized nearly 7,000 pounds of what they believed to be marijuana, even though the company shipping the material said accompanying paperwork made clear it was industrial hemp.

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