South Dakota has finally decided to legalize hemp. South Dakota is one of the last states to legalize industrial hemp after the 2018 Farm Bill changed the legal status of hemp. While many legislators, farmers, and indian tribes have expressed interest in the crop, Governor Kristi Noem has held strong in her belief that the move was wrong for the state.
Noem opposed this legislation on the understandable grounds that it would make it harder for law enforcement to prosecute low level marijuana busts. This stance has led to problems with companies trying to ship crops through the state.
Last Friday, Noem signed House Bill 1008, which goes into effect immediately. The bill includes funding to set up the state’s industrial hemp program, setting aside $3.5 million. However that number may change when the state starts to recover from the coronavirus. Noem has already called a special session in June to address the budget in anticipation of this problem.
Farmers don’t have the all clear yet as they must now wait for the USDA to approve of the state’s hemp program. This process may not end up being completed until June.
In 2019 legislators tried to pass the bill but Noem vetoed it and remained a holdout until now. Legislators continued to work on the issue despite Noem’s intention to veto the bill during this session as well. In January, they saw hope as Noem conceded that she could be persuaded to approve a hemp bill if it was done correctly. As long as the four guardrails of hers were met, she might sign it. The four guardrails she believed to be mandatory were reliable enforcement, responsible regulation, safe transportation, and adequate funding.
There was a short clash as Noem debated with legislators over what constituted adequate funding. Noem was set on $3.5 million for the program while the Legislative Research Council believed that $245,000 would be enough. However, in the end the full $3.5 million was earmarked for the program.