Hemp Bill Hits South Dakota Governor’s Desk

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Kristi Noem - Hemp
Image: Governor Kristi Noem via Facebook

Legislation that would legalize and regulate hemp in South Dakota has again made it to the Governor’s desk. Perhaps it will have better luck this time around.

It was just over a year ago that another bill that would have allowed industrial hemp to be grown and processed in the state, House Bill 1191, was vetoed by Governor Kristi Noem who said the state wasn’t yet ready for the crop.

Still very resistant to such a prospect for quite a while after the veto, Governor Noem has since softened her stance on the issue somewhat. However, she made it crystal clear that if any bill is to get over the line under her watch; it will need to satisfy her many concerns, which were itemised in four “guardrails”.

We should soon discover if House Bill 1008 makes the grade. It passed  the Senate late on March 12 local time with  a 30-3 vote, and previously in the House by a greater than two-thirds majority. One of the key demands met that may assist a thumbs-up from the governor was the Legislature approving  millions of dollars earmarked for running the program “responsibly”.

The full text of House Bill 1008, which covers the growth, processing and transportation of industrial hemp in the state, can be viewed here.

If HB1008 does get the Governor’s signature, an “emergency clause” contained within the bill would see legislation take effect immediately. However, South Dakota would need to submit a program plan to the United States Department of Agriculture and have that approved by USDA before the state’s farmers can be issued licences and cultivation can begin.

Under HB1008, hemp would only be able to be grown outdoors and in an area no less than 5 continuous acres.

South Dakota is one of the very few remaining U.S. states yet to enact legislation supporting a hemp industry. When Governor Noem may get around to making a decision on HB1008 is unclear. As in many other states, the priorities of dealing with the coronavirus COVID-19 is proving to be a significant and understandable distraction from other issues.