Senators Await Second Showdown On Industrial Hemp In South Dakota

Capitol News Bureau
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Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden ruled as Senate president Tuesday that legalizing industrial hemp in South Dakota needed a two-thirds majority of 24 yes votes to pass.

When the roll ended, it fell short, 21-14.

Senator Jordan Youngberg, a Madison Republican, however used a procedural maneuver to keep the bill alive for a second debate Wednesday. But he was still one short of the magical 24.

Rhoden explained his two-thirds ruling. He said that’s what the House did when representatives voted 65-2 for it. That also was advice he received from the nonpartisan Legislative Research Council staff.

Youngberg began the late-afternoon debate by significantly rewriting many places or adding new parts to HB 1191, so the revised version now fit what Governor Kristi Noem was willing to accept.

“There’s a lot of questions. There’s going to be a lot of questions on this bill as we go forward,” Youngberg acknowledged.

Noem had sent members of her administration to testify against it twice at committee hearings, including last week.

The main points her Cabinet members made: Drug dogs can’t tell the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana; and there hasn’t been much research into CBD oil from industrial hemp.

Senator Bob Ewing, a Spearfish Republican, opposed it for those reasons Tuesday.

“I think we need to pause on this and vote no on this bill today. I don’t think it’s ready for South Dakota at this time,” Ewing said.

Senate Democratic leader Troy Heinert of Mission called for industrial hemp to be legalized.

Because the 2018 federal Farm Bill allowed it nationwide, tribal governments would be allowed to produce and process it within their reservations, regardless of what a state government did.

“Let’s keep our eye on the ball here. Nobody is talking about legalizing marijuana,” Heinert said.

He added, “We have businesses that are ready to go down this path.”

Senator John Wiik, a Big Stone City Republican and a co-chairman of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Appropriations, presented the Noem administration’s estimates of the price for start-up and the continuing expenses for hemp regulation and enforcement in South Dakota.

They totaled $4 million the first year and $1.8 million per year ongoing.

“If you pass this right now, those are the costs. So it’s up to you,” Wiik said. He said he would vote against it.

Senate Republican leader Kris Langer of Dell Rapids also opposed it. “I truly love ag, but I just think that this bill right now is much more than that, and that we are just not ready, that there are so many unknowns,” she said.

“And,” Langer added, “we just need to make sure that we do it right.”

Senator Craig Kennedy, a Yankton Democrat, said he was “tired” of South Dakota being “afraid” and being last or near-last in so many things.

“The processing plants that farmers are going to sell to are going to go somewhere, and they certainly aren’t going to build in a state that can’t decide whether or not to move forward,” Kennedy said.

Senator Stace Nelson, a Fulton Republican, said he’d like labels that say ‘Made In South Dakota’ to replace labels from South America on bales of twine sold to farms and ranches.

“Hemp as a crop could shake up a lot of things here in South Dakota,” Nelson said.

Senator Ernie Otten, a Tea Republican, said he could vote yes “with a clean heart” now that the Farm Bill made industrial hemp production and processing legal nationwide for tribes and for states that choose to allow it.

Otten said he agreed with Heinert’s comment that South Dakota faced a decision on whether it wanted to be on the tracks or on the train that’s coming through, because federal law says industrial hemp can be transported through all states regardless of whether it’s legal in them.

“I guess on this one, I want to be on the train with him,” Otten said.

Youngberg made a similar point in his closing remarks. He said people could build a fence around South Dakota but hemp would still be allowed to cross.

Youngberg noted he’s voted against marijuana legalization. He recognized industrial hemp was a gamble, just as legal crops are.

“This might not be a lucrative product. Neither is corn and beans either right now,” Youngberg said. He added, “This just gives our farmers the opportunity to discover another market.”

The roll call:

Yes — Gary Cammack, R-Union Center. Blake Curd, R-Sioux Falls. Lynne DiSanto, R-Box Elder. Red Dawn Foster, D-Pine Ridge. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark. Troy Heinert, D-Mission. Phil Jensen, R-Rapid City. Craig Kennedy, D-Yankton. Joshua Klumb, R-Mount Vernon. Jack Kolbeck, R-Sioux Falls. Ryan Maher, R-Isabel. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton. Reynold Nesiba, D-Sioux Falls. Ernie Otten, R-Tea. Art Rusch, R-Vermillion. V.J. Smith, R-Brookings. Deb Soholt, R-Sioux Falls. Alan Solano, R-Rapid City. Wayne Steinhauer, R-Hartford. Susan Wismer, D-Britton. Jordan Youngberg, R-Madison.

No — Rocky Blare, R-Ideal. Jim Bolin, R-Canton. Justin Cronin, R-Gettysburg. Bob Ewing, R-Spearfish. Kris Langer, R-Dell Rapids. Jeff Monroe, R-Pierre. Al Novstrop, R-Aberdeen. Jeff Partridge, R-Rapid City. Lance Russell, R-Hot Springs. Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown. Jim Stalzer, R-Sioux Falls. Margaret Sutton, R-Sioux Falls. Jim White, R-Huron. John Wiik, R-Big Stone City.

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