BOISE, Idaho — The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the Idaho State hemp plan on Monday, which will allow the Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) to license hemp producers and handlers under Idaho Code and the Farm Bill passed in 2018.
"We had a ton of work to do once policymakers decided the direction they are going to go in. We are charged with implementing that program as best we can," said Chanel Tewalt, the deputy director of the ISDA.
This plan is a major milestone in Idaho's ongoing debate surrounding the production and transportation of hemp.
Three out-of-state truck drivers were arrested in 2019 for transporting industrial hemp through Idaho. All three men were given jail time, but the sentences were suspended with time served. Each was charged with a misdemeanor and was ordered to pay fees and restitution.
Later that same year, Idaho Gov. Brad Little issued an executive order that changed Idaho's rules on the interstate transportation of hemp to be in accordance with federal law. The executive order did not legalize hemp in the state of Idaho but changed the transportation laws to match federal law.
The Idaho Legislature tried multiple times from 2019-2020 to pass legislation legalizing the production and transportation of hemp but was ultimately unsuccessful.
Little signed into law House Bill 126, legalizing the production and transportation of hemp with up to 0.3% of THC, the cannabis compound that gives marijuana its high, in April 2021. However, the new law did not allow selling hemp products containing any amount of THC to Idaho consumers.
ISDA began working on a hemp plan to submit to federal officials this fall so that farmers can grow hemp next year, which was approved on Monday.
"I'm very proud of the entire ISDA team for working so quickly to implement the new law, and I know we could not have gotten here alone," ISDA Director Celia Gould said in a statement. "We extend our thanks to the Governor's office, industry stakeholders, Idaho State Police, USDA and the Idaho law enforcement community for excellent collaboration and assistance."
According to some Idaho farmers, Hemp is a desired crop for a number of reasons.
"it's not a drug at all, it's an actual healthy commodity and that's all it is," said Tom Cornie, co-owner of 1,000 Springs Mill in Buhl. "We were really in support of hemp grain because of its high nutritional value, hemp grain has Omega-2s and 6s and amino acids, so it's got as much protein as soybeans and is extremely agreeable to the body and so it fits into our line of products."
While hemp doesn't require as much water as other grains, the harvesting process will be new and require training. Allowing hemp to be grown in Idaho will grow the agricultural industry both physically and economically, according to Cornie.
Hemp license applications will open on Nov. 8. The application process will be done entirely online. For more information, click here.
Watch more Idaho politics:
See all of our latest political coverage in our YouTube playlist: