PIERRE (AP) – The South Dakota House passed a proposal Tuesday to legalize and regulate the growth, processing and transportation of industrial hemp in the state.
Legislators didn’t even debate the bill as it passed with a two-thirds majority. It will next be considered by the Senate. If that body also passes it with a two-thirds majority and Gov. Kristi Noem signs it into law, an emergency clause would allow it to go into effect immediately, possibly allowing South Dakota farmers to grow hemp this year.
The Republican governor has made it clear that she doesn’t think hemp is a “good idea” and would prefer that South Dakota remain one of three states to not allow industrial hemp. But she relented shortly before the session began and her office helped craft the bill to ensure it meets her desired “guardrails” that provide for its enforcement, regulation, transportation permitting, and funding.
The bill would ensure that hemp crops are tested for THC levels. THC is the compound in marijuana that produces a high. The Department of Agriculture allows hemp that contains below 0.3% THC.
But funding may still become a sticking point. Noem’s office estimates it would cost about $3.5 million to get the program up and running. She wants legislators to figure out how to make room in the budget for it.
Rep. Lee Qualm, the Platte Republican who introduced the bill, said there were a few lawmakers who wanted to settle the funding issue before voting on it, but he wanted to give the initiative momentum with a strong vote.
“We just need to keep moving this forward,” he said.
Some lawmakers have taken issue with the governor’s budget estimations for the program. They said the state would need to pay for testing and regulating hemp anyway because hemp will be transported through South Dakota from other states. Several Indian tribes in the state are also planning to grow hemp.
The state would still need to have its hemp program approved by the USDA, but Qualm said he was hopeful farmers could harvest hemp this year.