S.D. legislator, governor disagree on where legalizing industrial hemp will lead

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota’s governor and a state lawmaker staked out arguments Tuesday in the intensifying battle over industrial hemp.

Representative Tim Goodwin distributed a column with the opening line, “Legalizing Industrial Hemp does NOT legalize marijuana!”

The Rapid City Republican was responding to a column distributed Thursday by Governor Kristi Noem.

The Republican governor’s headline: “Industrial Hemp is Not the Answer.”

Noem warned, “Legalizing industrial hemp legalizes marijuana by default.”

Goodwin serves on the Legislature’s interim committee that is studying how South Dakota can legalize industrial hemp. The panel has met twice.

“We have heard testimony from the state of Kentucky, which got on a pilot program back in 2014; Montana, and North Dakota. All these states have legalized Industrial Hemp. All three have no intentions of legalizing marijuana,” Goodwin wrote.

He continued, “One farmer who testified before our committee, testified that he planted his hemp crop to capture the CBD oil, which is the flowered type of hemp. He planted 100 acres. After 90 days, when it came time to harvest, the processor bought his crop in the field. The processor harvested it themselves. He testified that the hemp flower harvest is very labor intensive. The processor paid the farmer $14 million for crop in the field!”

Noem vetoed the industrial-hemp measure the Legislature approved this year. The Senate couldn’t override the veto.

The governor’s spokeswoman responded Tuesday to Goodwin’s comments.

“Governor Noem is grateful for Rep. Goodwin’s willingness to engage on this issue and looks forward to working with him and other legislators in answering the questions surrounding industrial hemp,” Kristin Wileman wrote in an email to KELOLAND.

Wileman continued, “The governor firmly believes that if we are going to be a state that’s tough on drugs, we cannot legalize industrial hemp. Hemp weakens drug laws and legalizes marijuana by default. As Governor Noem said: ‘We cannot rush into legalizing industrial hemp without knowing the cost we will pay. The safety and health of the next generation is not worth the gamble.'”

The 2018 Farm Bill passed by Congress legalized hemp with low levels of THC. The U.S. Department of Justice issued a news release August 26 saying the federal Drug Enforcement Administration would take steps to expand marijuana research. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced an insurance program for industrial hemp. USDA is developing rules for industrial hemp production.

Noem, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives at the time, voted for the Farm Bill with the hemp provision. U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky sought it. South Dakota’s U.S. Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds supported the Farm Bill’s passage.

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