Idaho: on the wrong side of history

Still illegal to transport hemp through the state

South Dakota and Idaho are neck and neck in the competition for the coveted “wrong side of history” award. Neither state is in compliance with the 2018 Farm Bill; the state legislatures have decided to keep hemp illegal and to continue to define hemp and marijuana as the same substance, with identical legal consequences.

However, there was a small hope for Idaho, as a recent bill that was set to pass this week would’ve allowed for hemp to be transported through the state:

HB 300aaS would have allowed the director of the Idaho Department of Agriculture to issue permits for interstate hemp transportation for out-of-state truckers. With the bill, law enforcement would have inspected the trucks at check stations around the state, at ports of entry or designated stations.

Since hemp is illegal in Idaho, truckers transporting hemp from one state to another and needed to pass through Idaho were subject to arrests, fines, even jail time.

Well, against all odds, as the bill was in the home stretch and expected to pass, it was struck down yesterday. According to state law, hemp is listed as a schedule 1 narcotic, and the state will not even tolerate the crop when it’s just passing through, regardless that the 2018 Farm Bill granted interstate commerce for hemp in all 50 states.

Why would Idaho decide not to follow existing federal guidelines?

Judy Boyle, the chairwoman of the House Agricultural Affairs Committee, claims she is waiting for the USDA to outline the hemp regulations (which is expected to happen later this year).

“If we act early in January [2020] and accept the USDA plan, then Idaho farmers would be able to grow under that plan,” Boyle said. “After reading the Farm Bill, that is the easiest, cleanest and least expensive for Idaho to do.”

She’s claimed that creating a state plan would be costly and time consuming. But really, when a state legislature (who was elected to, you know, draft legislation) says such a thing, the other side of the coin is that perhaps Idaho’s legislative body doesn’t want to do the work.

Plus, arresting truckers and charging them excessive fines for transporting thousands of pounds of hemp will rack up a lot of money for the state, and there are a handful of those cases already set for trial this year. By changing state law, Idaho would have to admit that those arrests were unwarranted, which seems pretty reasonable given that state legislatures claim to know there is a difference between hemp and marijuana, yet they refuse to change the law to reflect this.

"The problem is, right now, our law doesn't differentiate," Idaho Republican Senator Jim Rice told the Associated Press on April 1st. "Under our current code, hemp is marijuana."

So will hemp ever be legal in Idaho?

Since state legislatures have chosen not to develop their own plan for hemp, the USDA will decide for them. Secretary Perdue has stated that federal regulations will be developed in the fall of 2019, with “plenty of time for the 2020 planting season,” and the states that did decide to developed their own regulatory guidelines will also be approved by this time.

Idaho state legislatures have expressed concern about their decision to wait for the USDA’s rules to take effect.

On April 9th, Senator Grant Burgoyne told the Associated Press that:

allowing the federal government to handle hemp in Idaho by implementing their plan, “probably isn’t the default decision that most of us in Idaho would agree with.”

Yet, the default decision is what Idaho is going to get.

As Representative Caroline Nilsson Troy explained, “Idaho will allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture rules to come into our state and regulate how agriculture would work…And I would like to know one other area where Idaho has given up their supremacy, especially with natural resources.”

For a state that boasts about farming being essential to its economy, the legislative body doesn’t seem all that concerned about getting voted out of office for their lack of initiative. It’ll be interesting to see how many of these representatives remain after they decided not to pass hemp legislation for the state.