After 12 Years of Trying, Trail Gives Up On Industrial Hemp Resolution

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Hemp Farm

Some guys just can’t catch a break.

It seems Rep. Tom Trail, R-Moscow, is one of those guys.  Trail, a veteran of the Idaho Legislature, has pitched a resolution supporting production of industrial hemp to his colleagues in the Idaho House of Representatives on an annual basis for the past 12 years with no success.

Trail’s run of proposing the resolution will end in 2011, the Moscow legislator announced earlier this week.

At the North Idaho Legislative Tour in Coeur d’Alene Sunday, Trail told that thanks to a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in December 2009, there is no point in proposing the resolution anytime soon.  The ruling said that though the states can issue permits for farmers to grow industrial hemp, the practice is illegal until announced otherwise by the U.S. Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Agency.

The only hope for legalizing hemp production in the United States, Trail says, rests on a bill sitting in Congress that would allow states to have the final say on hemp production.  The legislation, known as The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2009 or HR1866, has been assigned to a subcommittee on crime, terrorism, and homeland security and is awaiting hearing.  The sponsors of the legislation are Reps. Barney Frank, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and Ron Paul, a Republican from Texas.

But Trail isn’t holding his breath waiting for Congress to act on HR 1866. “I’ve just got so many other things on my plate, that I am just going to let this rest and see how things work out on the national level,” Trail explained.  If Congress passes the pro-hemp legislation in the future, would Trail take up the fight again in the Idaho Legislature?  “Everything’s ready to go,” said Trail.  “But at this point in time, it might just be a waste of time and energy until we make progress at the national level.”

Trail’s bill – in actuality a non-binding resolution with no force of law – went before the House Agricultural Committee in February, but failed on two tie votes.  Unlike in years prior, the hemp resolution came to committee with two additional co-sponsors – Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, and Rep. Brian Cronin, D-Boise.

Anderson and Cronin argued that Idaho lawmakers misunderstand the makeup of industrial hemp, thereby preventing production of the substance and disallowing new jobs to come to the Gem State. “Hemp is as American as apple pie,” said Cronin in committee earlier this year.  ”Both (George) Washington and (Thomas) Jefferson grew hemp and the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper.”

Anderson said that America is losing out on business opportunities.  “We spend hundreds of millions buying it from Canada,” Anderson pointed out. “There is not a day that goes by that we don’t use hemp products.”

Data on exactly how much hemp is imported into the United States is sparse, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in 1999 more than 1.8 million pounds of hemp-based yarns or fabrics were brought into the states. The report issued by the department said that number was expected to grow.  Hemp is used in a myriad of different goods, including clothing, paper, automobile paneling, and hair care products, among others.

By Dustin Hurst/