Idaho gets OK to license farmers to grow, transport hemp

November 2, 2021 GMT

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — U.S. officials have approved Idaho’s plan for growing and transporting hemp with up to 0.3% THC, the cannabis compound that gives marijuana its high.

The Idaho State Department of Agriculture on Monday announced receiving the approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture following a new Idaho law approved earlier this year. The agency said it will open online license applications to grow hemp early next week.

“I’m confident we’ll have applications on Monday,” said Idaho State Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Chanel Tewalt. “We’ve had interest throughout the year with many people following the agency’s progress.”

The new law covers growing and transporting the crops but doesn’t allow selling to Idaho consumers hemp products containing any amount of THC.

The law was a compromise effort after Idaho legislators failed for several years to approve a hemp measure. Some lawmakers feared legalizing the sale of hemp products containing THC could make it more difficult to enforce the state’s marijuana laws.

Backers of the new law said 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 many see as a health aid.

Idaho was the last state to make growing and transporting hemp legal following the 2018 farm bill that legalized hemp production at the federal level.

“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,” Celia Gould, director of the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, 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.”

Mississippi in 2020 legalized growing hemp, but lawmakers there never appropriated money to fund the program, meaning growers must seek approval through federal authorities.

The Idaho plan has some restrictions on who can grow hemp. For example, anyone convicted of a felony drug violation in any state or federal court in the last 10 years is excluded.

Growers who are approved must pay a $100 annual application fee and $500 annual licensing fee. Processors must pay a $100 annual application fee and $1,000 for an annual license.

The Idaho State Hemp Plan also has a protocol for destroying hemp that tests above 0.3% THC, making it illegal in Idaho. In some cases, entire crops would have to be destroyed, with methods ranging from plowing a crop under to burning it.

State officials say they have the resources to enforce those provisions in the plan.

Tewalt said it’s difficult to gauge how much interest there will be in Idaho to grow hemp. Surrounding states have allowed the growing of hemp for at least several years, as well as allowing adult and medical use of marijuana.

Growers and processors will “react to the overall hemp market in the U.S., which in some pockets is pretty well saturated,” Tewalt said.