No timetable yet on when South Dakota’s new low-THC hemp plan goes to USDA for review

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Spring has arrived, but South Dakota’s plan for allowing industrial-grade hemp to be planted, grown, transported and processed hasn’t been submitted yet to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a federally required review and possible approval.

That’s according to Maggie Seidel, policy director for Governor Kristi Noem. There’s not a timetable or even a range at this point, Seidel said Tuesday.

“Not at the moment. Working through timing. As soon as we have something, I’ll share,” she said.

The Legislature gave final approval to HB 1008 on March 12, the final day of the main run of the 2020 session. The final legislation contained an emergency clause, meaning it would become state law immediately after receiving the governor’s signature. She signed it March 30. Normally state laws take effect July 1.

No one has suggested the administration is slow-walking it, but there haven’t been public hearings scheduled for licensing fees that state government must set, or for possibly other regulations that could be needed.

Last year Governor Noem vetoed a somewhat similar bill, warning that it would encourage people to seek full legalization of marijuana.

She continued to battle against lawmakers throughout the past year, even after they established an interim committee to specifically study legalizing low-THC hemp and assigned House Republican leader Lee Qualm of Platte as the panel’s chairman.

One of the governor’s requirements this year was that the Legislature fund the program at the level she determined was necessary as the 2020 bill went through the lawmaking process. The total cost for one-time and ongoing expenses came to nearly $3.5 million.

But the governor added a statement to that last round of bills, most of them on state spending, when she put her signature on them

“At the moment, it is unknown how much relief the federal stimulus bills will give to South Dakotans,” Noem said.. “I’m signing these 15 bills with one caveat – we may need to come back in June and make drastic changes to both the current budget and next year’s fiscal year budget. As we receive further guidance from the federal government on what resources may be available to us, I will provide updates to the legislature and the public.”

KELOLAND News Capitol Bureau reporter Bob Mercer asked the governor’s policy director questions this week about the hemp legislation.

Has the South Dakota hemp plan been submitted to USDA for review and approval? If not, when will it be?

Seidel: The SDDA (South Dakota Department of Agriculture) is currently drafting a state plan to submit to USDA.

Is USDA review and approval of the South Dakota hemp plan required before state rules can be proposed? Or should the rules be proposed and adopted before the South Dakota hemp plan is submitted?

Seidel: It is likely that there will be overlap in the South Dakota rules process and the USDA plan approval process. The SD Department of Agriculture has learned from the early experiences of other states and is prepared to adjust the plan and/or proposed rules throughout the process as necessary.

Has the COVID-19 situation affected the timetable regarding the South Dakota plan? And has uncertainty over state government’s revenue affected the availability of funding to implement the South Dakota hemp plan?

Seidel: Absolutely the COVID situation has affected the timetable. Being responsive to this public health pandemic has caused unexpected delays across state government as our focus is on taking care of people and the state during to this situation. The South Dakota departments of Agriculture, Health, and Public Safety are in discussion and making plans to implement the legislation.

Is there anything else the public should know about the hemp-legalization plan at this point? 

Seidel: Once the state plan is approved and rules are promulgated, prospective growers and processors can apply for the proper state licensure.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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