A resolution in support of the legalization of production of industrial hemp failed in the House Agricultural Affairs Committee Wednesday, despite claims from the bill’s sponsors that hemp production could lead to an increase in jobs and tax revenue in the state.
The bill's primary sponsor and chairman of the committee, Rep. Tom Trail, R-Moscow, said the memorial would support the legalization of hemp, a multi-million dollar industry that supplies materials used in thousands of food and fashion products. Trail added that growing hemp would not impact drug trade because of the its low levels of THC, the natural chemical that produces a high associated with cannabis. Modern hemp plants contain less than 0.3 percent of the chemical, while cannabis, which is used to make the illegal drug marijuana, contains rates much higher than that of hemp.
On the amount of THC in hemp, Trail said “to get a high from industrial hemp you'd have to build a cigar the size of a telephone pole.”
Rep. Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, objected to the proposal, saying that the legalization could add an unneeded burden on law enforcement officers. Lake expressed concern that officers could struggle in differentiating between legal hemp fields and illegal marijuana operations.
Trail responded that during his research on the issue, he had met with law enforcement officials from Canada, where hemp is legal, and they informed him that no marijuana growers are "stupid enough" to plant cannabis near hemp fields due to cross-pollination. According to the Canadian officials, planting the two products near each other results in the THC content of cannabis being lowered, thereby reducing the high that can obtained from it. Trail added that Canadian officials encourage hemp production near urban areas to help combat illegal cannabis operations in cities.
One of the resolution's co-sponsors, Rep. Brian Cronin, D-Boise, told lawmakers that Idaho is missing out in job opportunities and tax revenue as a result of the federal ban on hemp production. Cronin argued that hemp legalization proponents have done a terrible job of educating the general public and lawmakers on the realities of hemp, which has led to a "fundamental misunderstanding of what hemp is."
"Hemp is as American as apple pie," said Cronin. "Both (George) Washington and (Thomas) Jefferson grew hemp and the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper."
The other co-sponsor for the plan, Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, echoed Cronin's sentiments, saying that America is missing out on the jobs that could come from the industry.
"We spend hundreds of millions buying it from Canada," Anderson said. "There is not a day that goes by that we don't use hemp products."
Following testimony, Lake proposed the committee kill the resolution, but the committee failed to do so on a 5-5 tie vote. Rep. Donna Pence, D-Gooding, asked the panel to introduce the plan and send it to the full House for further consideration. Pence's request also failed on a 5-5 tie vote.
To do more research on the hemp issue, you can visit www.votehemp.com for more information.