South Dakota, one of the last holdouts, legalizes industrial hemp

South Dakota, one of the last holdouts, legalizes industrial hemp

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After a relatively long deliberation and one vetoed bill, South Dakota’s governor has given the final okay on a bill to legalize industrial hemp in the state.

Gov. Krisiti Noem vetoed a version of the industrial hemp legalization last year, citing fears that the move would normalize a culture associated with marijuana and other cannabis products in the state. But with her Friday signing of a new version of the bill, farmers and consumers in South Dakota can look forward to thriving markets for hemp amid an uncertain future.

The U.S. federal government legalized industrial hemp in 2018, leading to a rapid expansion in farming of the crop which was once grown far and wide in America, with prominent uses in textiles and ship-building.

According to U.S. News and World Report, the legislation passed on the same day that Noem signed 14 other bills to fund programs like a cemetery for veterans and a health sciences building at the University of South Dakota. [1]

One of the final sticking points for Noem in the final bill was funding. $3.5 million was appropriated in this session’s budget, according to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. Budgets may be tweaked later this year at a special session to address the spread of COVID-19. [2]

“I’m signing these 15 bills with one caveat — we may need to come back in June and make drastic changes to both the current budget and next year’s fiscal year budget,” Noem said in a statement, according to U.S. News and World Report. [1]

As the program would accrue costs for those employees and resources needed to test hemp crops to make sure they are not “hot” crops — that is, to make sure their THC levels don’t exceed 0.3%.

On top of funding, the governor was adamant that any industrial hemp legalization feature strict guardrails on the questions of regulation, transportation and enforcement. [2]

South Dakota police have already shown themselves to be sticklers on that transportation front. They arrested a hemp trucker attempting to deliver hemp products across interstate lines in the summer of 2019, creating a major firestorm among hemp advocates at the time.

The move was especially egregious as the U.S. Department of Agriculture had published rules advising state governments to permit unfettered interstate transport of such inventories.