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SD House passes hemp legalization bill despite governor's warnings

PIERRE, S.D. -- The South Dakota House has passed a bill which would legalize the growth and production of industrial hemp starting in July, despite the governor’s directions to stand down until next year.

The House on Monday, Feb. 11, voted 65-2 to pass House Bill 1191, which would give South Dakota farmers and producers the green light on hemp production beginning July 1. Realistically, though, growers won’t be able to begin growth until 2020, since July is too late to plant seed for the 2019 harvest.

Legislators have mulled over hemp legalization for several years now, as surrounding states North Dakota and Minnesota have taken part in pilot programs to grow the crop. Previous efforts to move forward with hemp production in South Dakota have failed in the past, but lawmakers appear more ready now that Congress legalized the crop at the federal level thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill.

Hemp, unlike its cousin cannabis, is not a scheduled drug. It does not contain enough tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, to cause a psychoactive effect when ingested.

Republican Gov. Kristi Noem at a Friday news conference encouraged legislators to table HB 1191 and other hemp legalization discussions until next year, saying that the state “is not ready” for the crop. She, as well as the state Department of Public Safety, have cited concerns with permitting, enforcement and transportation of the crop.

Noem declined to say Friday that she would veto HB 1191 if it arrives on her desk. Spokesperson for Noem Kristin Wileman said following the House’s Monday vote that her stance has not changed.

House Majority Leader Rep. Lee Qualm, R-Platte, said after the House’s vote that he thinks it’s time that the state move forward with legalizing the crop, and that hemp could be a “really, really big deal for South Dakota.” He said he believes HB 1191 will be supported in the Senate, as well.

Qualm said he would consider pursuing a veto override if Noem vetoes HB 1191, but he doesn’t “think it will come to that.”

The bill now moves onto the Senate.

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