Tim Corny, co-owner of 1,000 Springs Mills, has pushed to legalize the cultivation and processing of hemp in Idaho for years. He remembers receiving an angry phone call during the time when he was pressing someone “angry” somehow “How are you doing this to our kids?”
“At the time, I explained how important this product is to the body, how much history there is, how well it is compatible with the body, the protein, and the nutrients that are available,” Korney said.
“I said, ‘Listen, you should feed this to your children. This is not what you think it is. “
“He’s had a complete shift in what he thinks,” Korney said.
In the end, enough minds changed to allow the Idaho legislature to pass HB 126 in April. The bill was signed into law by Governor Brad Little, making Idaho the final state in the state to allow crops to be grown and processed, As previously reported by Idaho Press.
Last month, Idaho Department of Agriculture officials announced that the agency had received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to license Idaho businesses and farms to produce hemp. The Idaho State Police has agreed to open the application process.
So far, there are 38 companies in Idaho that have either started or completed an application for a license, Chanel Tewalt, deputy director of the Idaho Department of Agriculture, said by email.
“Anytime you have a new industry, there are pioneers in the industry,” said Shaun Ellis, a spokesperson for the Idaho Farm Bureau, a nonprofit trade group that supports the legislation.
“The pioneers in the cannabis industry in Idaho will start to advance,” Ellis said.
What does the law allow?
The legislation authorized the production, research, and processing of industrial hemp by those licensed in Idaho, and permitted the legal possession and transfer of cannabis products by removing cannabis from Idaho’s List of Schedule I drugs.
Hemp products sold to consumers, including CBD oil, which contain any amount of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, have not been legalized by law.
Prior to the legislation, Idaho law did not distinguish between industrial hemp and marijuana. As a result, the state arrested several truck drivers who were transporting loads of industrial hemp through Idaho, and threatened them with drug smuggling charges that carry mandatory minimum prison terms.
There are two types of licenses companies can apply for: a product license or a handling license. Tewalt said the product license is for people or companies who are looking to grow and harvest the crop, but don’t process it further. The handling license allows users to process the crop into different products, she said. Tewalt said some companies are applying for both a product license and a handling licence.
Legalizing hemp required addressing serious misconceptions about the crop. Corny said that it is often mistaken for cannabis to contain high amounts of THC.
But there are four types of cannabis plants that can be grown for different uses. The most well-known marijuana, Corney said, contains THC as the active ingredient. Not only has this illegal plant been grown under Idaho law, Corney said, the plants are not closely related.
“I would say it’s the difference between a cat and a dog,” said Corney — cousins, but distant cousins.
Another type of hemp plant produces CBD, and its oil is used to treat a variety of ailments. But because CBD products contain trace amounts of THC, the cultivation of this variety of hemp has also not been legalized.
Korney said there are two types of cannabis that will be allowed to be grown in Idaho.
The first produces hemp seeds, which can be processed into grains to be consumed as rice or converted into other food products.
“It’s so nutritious that people don’t need to be afraid of it,” Korney said.
Hemp cores, the remaining part of hemp seeds after their shells are removed, contain more protein than soybeans, Corney said, and the crop has been a part of the local diet of East Asian cultures, especially in China, for thousands of years.
The second variety allowed to grow in Idaho, Corney said, produces a fiber that can be used for architectural and other purposes.
Hemp pioneers in Idaho
One of the hemp industry pioneers in architecture is Matthew Mead, founder and CEO of Hempitecture, a Ketchum-based company specializing in hemp building materials. Mead lobbied for a hemp bill this spring, telling lawmakers that Hempitecture was importing materials from Canada, but Mead was hoping to get locally grown hemp. The company’s flagship product is HempWool, an insulating material for residential and commercial properties.
Today, construction crews are building a Hempitecture insulation manufacturing site in Jerome, about 70 miles south of Ketchum in the heart of Magic Valley’s vast agricultural region. Company leaders expect the plant to be operational in May or June, according to a press release.
Korney owns 1,000 Spring Miles, and is headquartered in Buhl. The company grows and processes a variety of organic grains and beans, including heirloom varieties, and growing hemp would expand the company’s offering.
Corny plans to start on a small scale, planting 5-20 acres, which will allow him to learn the nuances associated with growing the plant. For example, the plant doesn’t like having “wet feet,” which means it doesn’t require as much water as some crops, he said.
But he said one of the challenges producers may face is keeping the harvesting equipment clean of material from the plant so the equipment doesn’t overheat or catch fire. In addition, the plant has a high enough moisture content that it should be processed soon after harvest, rather than being left in a truck overnight, Corney said.
He said he would most likely get the seeds from farmers in Montana. Eventually, he hopes to develop a variety tailored to the local climates of southern Idaho.
Some in the agriculture sector are questioning whether Canyon County — one of the world’s leading seed-producing regions — will produce cannabis seeds next, Ellis said.
Idaho Press reporter Ryan Soup contributed to this report