S.D. lawmakers take 2020 aim at legalizing industrial hemp

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Lawmakers on a 10-1 vote Monday decided to take another run at legalizing industrial-level hemp in South Dakota next year.

Republican Governor Kristi Noem vetoed similar legislation in March, warning its passage would open the way to legalizing marijuana.

But House Republican leader Lee Qualm of Platte said Monday that CBD oil from low-THC hemp relieves pain and isn’t addictive like opioids can be.

“I think CBD oil is here to stay,” Qualm said. He called it “a good thing” and noted vitamins aren’t federally regulated.

Senators fell four ayes short of the two-thirds majority needed to override the veto.

The governor lost one of her backers Monday. Senator Rocky Blare, an Ideal Republican, supported the 2020 version. He twice voted with Noem this year.

The six-page draft would again allow producing, transporting and processing hemp in South Dakota, if the crop’s THC content is at three-tenths of one percent or less.

There also would be licensing background checks for farmers and processors.

But farmers would have to plant a minimum of five contiguous acres into hemp under the new version.

There’s also now a warning that industrial hemp would be treated like any other legal crop, aside from various special provisions in the bill.

Rep. Randy Gross, an Elkton Republican and a former agricultural banker, made that suggestion. Gross also pointed to several other inconsistencies that the study committee agreed to repair.

House Republican leader Qualm, who farms and raises cattle, rode the Noem bus across the state during the final days of her 2018 campaign. But Qualm said Monday he will be lead sponsor of the 2020 bill.

Senator Joshua Klumb, a Mount Vernon Republican and agricultural producer, will head the legalization effort if it reaches the Senate side.

The legislation would have an emergency clause, Qualm said, meaning it would take effect nearly immediately in March, rather than the standard July 1 start for most new laws. An emergency clause and a veto override each requires a two-thirds majority in each chamber.

Another reason cited by Noem for her veto was that the U.S. Department of Agriculture hadn’t finished federal rules yet for low-THC hemp. USDA recently issued those.

The lone nay Monday came from Representative Nancy York, a Watertown Republican. She said “95 percent” of the discussion at the committee’s previous three meetings were about medicinal uses.

“That’s the part that’s tricky for me,” York said.

York later said many hemp farmers in other states went bust this year without a market. “That bothers me,” York said. She questioned whether South Dakota taxpayers should subsidize hemp farmers.  

Representative Bob Glanzer, a Huron Republican, suggested adding a bonding requirement to protect hemp producers from unscrupulous processors. The state Public Utilities Commission makes grain warehouses bond.

Qualm said he wasn’t sure the committee was the right forum for that decision.

Glanzer later supported the minimum size. “It’s going to take some effort to maintain five acres of hemp,” Glanzer said.

Qualm said he’d be the first to agree. “It’s not like growing corn or beans,” Qualm said.

Representative Oren Lesmeister, a Parade Democrat who sponsored the 2019 bill, recently attended a hemp building-materials showcase in Ketchum, Idaho. “It was amazing, the amount of products,” he said.

Lesmeister saw hemp insulation rated R19, hemp-crete with nine-inch walls that provided R17 insulation, hemp carpet and hemp board.

“I had expectations and they blew them up,” Lesmeister said. He added, “It’s an exciting time. It’s going to be neat to see it put to use.” 

Qualm had a counter to Noem’s pathway point. “I don’t think anybody on this committee wants recreational (marijuana) passed,” Qualm said.

A revised version of the proposal will be presented Tuesday to the Legislature’s Executive Board.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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