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Idaho officials working on hemp plan for federal approval

July 26, 2021 GMT

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho officials are working on a hemp plan to submit to federal officials this fall so that farmers can grow it next year.

State Department of Agriculture Deputy Director Chanel Tewalt told the Capital Press in a story last week that the state intends to submit its plan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture by Sept. 1.

Idaho lawmakers earlier this year approved the growing and selling of hemp products containing 0.3% or less of THC, the cannabis compound that gives marijuana its high.

The Idaho State Department of Agriculture plans to submit the hemp plan in early August to Republican Gov. Brad Little and the Idaho State Police for their approval.

Little, who signed the bill approving hemp in Idaho into law in April, and law enforcement officials in the past have expressed concern that hemp could be used as a cover for growing or transporting marijuana.

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The overall effort is to align state law with federal law contained in the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp. Idaho is the only state that still treats hemp like marijuana. That has prevented Idaho framers from growing hemp, which backers say can be a lucrative crop.

If legalized in Idaho, farmers could sell hemp seeds and a hemp-derived extract called cannabidiol, or CBD, seen by many as a health aid. In its purified distilled form, CBD oil commands thousands of dollars per kilogram, and farmers can make tens of thousands of dollars an acre growing hemp plants to produce it. That distillate also can be converted into a crystallized form or powder.

Much of the state’s plan deals with making sure Idaho hemp plants contain 0.3% or less of THC. Crops containing more would have to be destroyed.

Part of the process for getting federal approval involved creating administrative rules through negotiated rulemaking meetings held in June. Tewalt said the U.S. Department of Agriculture must approve those rules as part of Idaho’s plan as well as the new law passed by lawmakers. State officials must also prove the state can fulfill requirements of federal hemp rules.

“There is a handling portion of the (draft) rule because the new Idaho law references handling,” Tewalt said. “We need to ensure the product can get from the farm to a drying facility or grain facility. So we have accounted for that in the process.”

Growers will need to pay $500 for an annual license and $250 per lot for inspection. Handler-processors would pay $1,000 for a license and $500 for an annual inspection.

“Inspection is required in the federal rule and will be in the state rule,” Tewalt said.