GOP lawmakers see possible compromise with GOP governor on South Dakota hemp

Capitol News Bureau
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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Drug lockers for law enforcement need updating no matter what happens on legalizing low-THC hemp in South Dakota, several top Republican lawmakers said Thursday.

The state Senate was scheduled Thursday to debate HB 1008, which the House of Representatives has already approved 54-12, but deferred it to Monday.

Governor Kristi Noem, a Republican, vetoed a similar bill last year. The Senate wasn’t able to get the necessary 24 ayes to override it.

The governor is willing to accept the legislation this year if her ‘four guardrails‘ are met, but the sides have vastly different estimates of how much funding is needed.

Noem’s budget office said the costs would total some $3.5 million for start-up and the first year of operation, while the Legislative Research Council estimate was about $80,000 for the first year and eventually about $165,000 per year.

“I believe we’ll come together,” House Republican leader Lee Qualm of Platte told reporters.

Senator Jim Bolin, the Republican assistant leader in the Senate, said he doesn’t expect the governor would block it again. “I don’t think we’re going to get to a veto. I think this is going to get worked out,” he said.

Qualm said he doesn’t expect farmers to plant many acres of hemp this year because the U.S. Department of Agriculture would still need up to 60 days to approve South Dakota’s plan.

Qualm said it could be as late as June or July for South Dakota to get federal clearance if the legislation passes. That means there won’t be much immediate demand from growers for licenses, he said.

For hemp to be legal, the federal government requires it have no more than three-tenths of one percent of THC, the chemical that creates the high.

Other states haven’t seen “a significant impact” on law enforcement, Qualm said. He chaired the Legislature’s interim committee that looked last year at how other states have handled industrial hemp and assembled the legislation for this year.

He said two ballot measures in November that would legalize marijuana for medicinal or recreational use would significantly change what South Dakota would, or wouldn’t, need.

“I believe it’s prudent to just wait and see,” Qualm said.

The governor later said she still wants the program to be fully funded.

“Well, I have been extremely forthright in saying the legislators, if they want a legalized hemp program, that they need to fund it, and the figures that we gave them were very detailed in what the resources would be that would be necessary to do it responsibly. They need to fund it not just through the (state) Department of Agriculture, like many states do, but they need to fund the enforcement actions as well, and the public health actions,” Noem told reporters.

She continued, “So, that’s the best way to do it, to make sure the program has integrity, and that we can keep people safe, if we implement this new crop.”

Asked if a veto was on the table, Noem answered, “I anticipate they will fully fund the program.”

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