Lesmeister Opposes Sending Industrial-Hemp Bill To Senate Appropriations

Capitol News Bureau

Updated at 5:55 p.m.

Representative Oren Lesmeister said the legislation that would legalize industrial-hemp production in South Dakota shouldn’t be sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“I don’t know why it would. I think it’s an agricultural bill,” the Parade Democrat said late Monday afternoon.

Lesmeister said he wasn’t surprised that Governor Kristi Noem wants a fiscal note prepared on the estimated cost.

He said the Republican governor is trying to delay it.

The bill was scheduled to have a hearing Tuesday in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee but has been postponed until the fiscal note is ready.

Lesmeister is prime sponsor of HB 1191. The state House of Representatives passed it 65-2 February 11. 

Noem has used her past two weekly legislative news conference to speak strongly against it. Last Thursday she said it would be a gateway to marijuana in South Dakota.

Lesmeister said the governor hasn’t talked to legislators lately.

“Going on two weeks now, we’ve had no communications whatsoever. That’s the disappointing part,” Lesmeister said.

He has a second bill that would appropriate $10,000 on an emergency basis for the state Department of Agriculture to establish the program for costs such as printing license forms and setting up a website.

“After that, it should be totally self-sufficient,” Lesmeister said.

Producers and processors would bear the costs for licensing, testing, field inspections, law-enforcement checks and destruction of failed crops, he said.

A North Dakota hemp program cost about $50,000 to create, according to Lesmeister.

The final day of the main legislative session is March 13. Lawmakers are scheduled to return March 29 for any vetoes or unfinished business.

Published 3:04 p.m.

Governor Kristi Noem is trying to kill legislation that would legalize production of industrial hemp in South Dakota, the lead Senate sponsor said Monday.

Republican Senator Jordan Youngberg of Madison confirmed that a Senate committee hearing has been put on hold while the Legislative Research Council prepares a fiscal note estimating the proposed program’s costs.

The state House of Representatives voted 65-2 to pass HB 1191 February 11. Democratic Representative Oren Lesmeister of Parade is prime sponsor.

Youngberg said Monday he’s met once with a member of the Republican governor’s staff about the legislation. Youngberg said the message that was delivered to him was the governor opposes the bill.

Noem used her past two weekly legislative news conferences to speak strongly against it.

“This isn’t a money issue. It’s not an enforcement issue. She said very clearly she thinks it’s a gateway to marijuana. That’s a question for legislators: Do they think it’s a gateway to marijuana?” Youngberg said.

He added, “I have no issue getting the fiscal impact. It’s all fee-based to these farmers. It’s all self-funded through the program. We want to see the state do good and the farmers do good money-wise.”

Youngberg said he’s heard the governor’s estimate for the program’s annual budget would be $1 million to $3 million.

The legislation would require producers to annually obtain $350 licenses from the state Department of Agriculture before purchasing or obtaining hemp material for planting, breeding or processing.

The application would have to list the legal description where the hemp would be planted, bred or processed.

Law enforcement would conduct criminal background checks and licenses would be denied to any person guilty of a controlled substance or marijuana crime for 10 years after conviction.

Each producer would have to document her or his hemp plants didn’t have more than three-tenths of one percent of THC.

Congress legalized industrial hemp in the 2018 farm bill that Noem voted for when she was in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Under the South Dakota legislation, the state Agriculture Department would be required to work with the state Office of Attorney General to apply to the federal government for a license to grow industrial  hemp in South Dakota.

Law enforcement would have authority to stop vehicles hauling hemp to check their cargo and state inspectors could check places where hemp was grown, bred or processed.

As of 3 p.m. CST,, KELOLAND News hadn’t heard back yet on questions sent to Noem’s office, Lesmeister or Senator Gary Cammack, R-Union Center. Cammack chairs the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee that has been assigned to hold the bill’s hearing.

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