SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Another discussion about hemp and marijuana happened in the state Legislature’s Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources committee today.

HB-1209 would increase the level of THC in the hemp process to be transported from one processor to another in the state from 1% to 5%, according to bill sponsor Democrat Rep. Oren Lesmeister. The bill moved from the committee in a 4-3 vote.

Lesmeister and other supporters didn’t disagree with a state official in opposition who said increasing the allowable THC level from 1% to 5% would classify the product as marijuana. THC is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana.

Under South Dakota regulations, the finished products that are made from or include hemp must be at .3% level. The 1% or 5% comes into play as the hemp is being processed. THC levels can increase during processing, or extraction. It does not change the TCH level of .3% of retail products.

Lesmeister said the 5% would allow for another processor to extract THC as it develops more uses for hemp after the initial process is completed.

If a 5% level is allowed, the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources would then be regulating marijuana and not hemp, said Derek Schiefelbein, SDDA industrial hemp program manager. 

California and New York allow 5% THC levels for processing hemp, and they are pro-marijuana, Schiefelbein said. The industrial hemp programs in those two states are regulated by their departments of health because hemp at the at THC level is marijuana, he said.

The 5% level is reasonable, said Katie Sieverding of the South Dakota Industrial Hemp Association. Other states are aware of THC levels of 5% during processing but are choosing to ignore it, Sieverding said.

“We want to draw a line in the sand,” she said.

The 5% would also allow more processors to be established in the state, supporters said.

Keeping the level at 1% “would not reduce the growth we expect to continue in the program,” Scheilfelben said.

If the 5% is allowed the hemp product would be transported to a processor in containers marked “not for human consumption,” Lesmeister said.

The product would be regulated as 1% now, he said.

THC is a pain for hemp growers and the ultimate goal is to be at 0% THC, Lesmeister said.

Supporters were asked if raising the allowable TCH level to 5% would discourage the pursuit of 0%.

Lesmeister said it would not because 0% is better for the industry. The 5% is something that is needed now, he said.

Schiefelbein said the hemp industry has the technology now to reduce THC levels. That should be pursued rather than the 5% THC level.