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S.D. House OKs bill to fund industrial hemp licensing

PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota could be one step closer to legalizing industrial hemp — if lawmakers can win over the governor.

The House on Tuesday, Feb. 26 voted 51-11 to pass House Bill 1212, which would allocate $10,000 in state dollars to the Department of Agriculture to develop a hemp licensing program. HB 1212 is a companion bill to House Bill 1191, which would legalize the growth and production of hemp in the state.

The House overwhelmingly passed HB 1191 by a 65-2 vote earlier this month, and a Senate committee is set to take up the bill this week. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Kris Langer, R-Dell Rapids, said at a news conference on Friday, Feb. 22 that there is a "good sense of support among senators" for the bill.

Despite lawmakers' overall support for hemp, Republican Gov. Kristi Noem has consistently advocated against legalizing it this legislative session. She has said that that South Dakota isn't ready for hemp, and that law enforcement doesn't have the money or tools necessary to enforce regulations.

She said at a Feb. 14 news conference that she is “100 percent convinced that this would open the pathway” to marijuana legalization in South Dakota.

Hemp is not a drug. It is related to, but not the same as, cannabis, a Schedule I controlled substance. Hemp does not contain a high enough concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, to cause psychoactive effects when ingested.

With hemp now legal federally thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, proponents of legalization say South Dakota could lose out on economic opportunities to other states if they wait any longer.

Noem has declined to say whether she would veto HB 1191 should it pass the Senate. If she does, House Majority Leader Rep. Lee Qualm, R-Platte, said on Feb. 11 that he would pursue a veto override. Langer on Feb. 22 said her caucus has not yet discussed whether the Senate would, as well.