PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Twelve growers with plots planned on 290.4 acres and three processors have received licenses so far as South Dakota returns to legal production of industrial hemp this spring.

“There are several pending license applications awaiting final approval so we expect the numbers to go up over the next several weeks,” said Brian Walsh, spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Congress legalized production of hemp with no more than three-tenths of 1% THC three years ago. South Dakota lawmakers saw their attempt frustrated in 2019 when Governor Kristi Noem vetoed it.

Noem agreed to a compromise in the 2020 session, signing HB 1008 into law in March. Her administration’s proposed rules received U.S. Department of Agriculture clearance in October.

South Dakota voters in November approved both IM 26 legalizing medical marijuana and Constitutional Amendment A legalizing marijuana for people age 21 and older. Medical marijuana takes effect July 1, while the South Dakota Supreme Court considers after the fact whether Amendment A took the proper route to the ballot. Noem campaigned against both measures.

This year, Noem opposed follow-up legislation, sending the industrial hemp program’s manager and an official from the state Department of Public Safety to testify against it, but then surprised prime sponsor Representative Caleb Finck and members of the South Dakota Industrial Hemp Association when she signed HB 1228 into law.

Hunter Roberts is her cabinet secretary of agriculture and natural resources. Roberts said the department’s industrial hemp team has been busy working with growers and processors.

“We have seen a lot of interest on the grain and seed production side based on solid markets for those products. In addition, we are working to revise our state Industrial Hemp Plan based on recent legislative changes and the final USDA rule published in March,” Roberts said. “As we work through the process our goal remains having a safe and reliable industrial hemp program in South Dakota.”

Craig Price is her cabinet secretary for public safety. Price said the department, especially its inspections and weights & measures staff, has worked with Roberts’ department on developing a process for the sampling of hemp.

“As with any new program,  there may be some adjustments to the sampling process once we have a few samples completed, but we are pleased with the progress so far,” Price said.