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An Act Authorizing Growth And Sale of Industrialized Hemp Moves To House Floor

SD State Capitol
Cara Hetland
SD State Capitol

House Bill 1204, an act to authorize the growth and sale of industrialized hemp in South Dakota, passed the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee by a vote of nine to two on Feb. 16.

It now moves to the House floor.

The 2014 Farm Bill exempts industrialized hemp from being classified as a controlled substance if it’s produced in state pilot programs. Proponents of the bill point to the success of North Dakota’s hemp industry under this pilot program, but opponents still question if manufacturing hemp would lead to federal prosecution.

Committee Chairman Herman Otten, who voted in favor of 1204, says legalizing industrial hemp provides opportunity for economic growth.  

“We have an opportunity to maybe start something a little new, it’ll take years to get to a point where it’ll make an impact on our state ag economy but it has to start somewhere, you know, years ago soybeans were in the same spot, people didn’t raise a lot of soybeans and the ethanol industry, like you said was probably started in somebody’s garage on a very small way, so not trying and not even wanting to try is kind of the biggest shame, I think, ” says Otten.  

Otten and other representatives say they’re disappointed no ag organizations have made their opinion on the bill known.

Opponents of the bill include the Department of Public Safety. Jenna Howell, director of legal and regulatory services, says South Dakota’s law enforcement agencies don’t have the necessary resources to correctly measure THC levels in hemp plants. She says the department worries about the message legalizing industrial hemp would send to youth.

“Having those things legally grow in our state, we are concerned send mixed messages to our youth who we are trying to warn about the dangers of illegal drugs, and we would ask we not further confuse that issue,” says Howell.  

House Bill 1204 calls for THC testing of any hemp crops. A member of the state department of agriculture says growers found to be exceeding the maximum level of three tenths of a percent could have their crops destroyed with no reimbursement.  

Meanwhile, Governor Daugaard says he will likely not sign legislation to legalize industrial hemp farming.
“Unless someone can demonstrate to me truly that there’s an industrial demand for it and there’s an honest market for it… I’ve never seen any of that. People talk about the potential of it, but it’s just not there.”
He says legalizing industrial hemp is a gateway by supporters of recreational marijuana, which he says he doesn’t support.