One of the changes introduced in the 2018 Farm Bill is that the production of industrial hemp will become legal across the country. This is a potential financial windfall for farmers.

Hemp’s potential as a cash crop depends upon the market for hemp products. Right now, that market is being fueled by cannabidiol (CBD) oil which doesn’t contain any psychoactive ingredients.

Many people think that products containing CBD oil have some medicinal or health benefits. Studies have shown it to be an effective treatment of childhood epilepsy, but it is also believed by many to be useful for treating other problems including anxiety, insomnia, arthritic inflammation and certain types of pain. More studies are needed to prove these treatments conclusively.

Until the passage of the new Farm Bill, CBD oil was technically illegal under federal law. However, many states have legalized CBD oil produced from hemp, and in those states, federal authorities did not pursue charges against people producing, selling or purchasing the product. In those states, demand for CBD oil has skyrocketed — a boon to farmers producing hemp in the states that legalized it. According to a National Public Radio segment this week, the price for hemp flowers has reached $75 per pound.

The 2018 Farm Bill legalizes — under federal law — the production of CBD oil from hemp. That doesn’t mean, however, that CBD oil is legal under state laws. In fact, in South Dakota, the only products containing CBD oil that are legal are those that have received Food and Drug Administration approval. However, there’s only one product whose manufacturer spent the time and money to have it approved by the FDA — Epidiolex, a drug intended to treat epilepsy. That means other companies producing products containing CBD aren’t allowed to sell those products in our state.

In a recent a Rapid City Journal article, a spokeswoman for Gov.-elect Kristi Noem said her administration would likely not be interested in changing South Dakota law to legalize the sale of CBD-based products that haven’t garnered FDA approval. (In case you’re wondering, that’s a win for big pharmaceutical companies.)

I’m sure you’re familiar with all the vitamins, herbal supplements and essential oils being sold to promote health and address deficiencies. They don’t have to have FDA approval. Though their manufacturers aren’t allowed to claim their products address specific medical problems, those claims can be found aplenty by other sources online. I work with one woman who seems to think there’s an essential oil to address most maladies. And she’s able to purchase those oils in local stores.

But she can’t buy a CBD-based product — a product that gets its start on an American farm. Imagine the uproar we would experience if South Dakota made E-15 or even E-30 ethanol blends illegal in the state. Do you think the ag community would stand for the outlawing of a product derived from the hard labor of so many farmers in our state?

I don’t.

There will be a lot more farms growing industrial hemp next year. There will be even more the year after that. We all know what happens to prices once America’s farmers put their backs behind producing a commodity. Prices go down as the supply goes up. Aside from scale, it seems to me that the amount of money farmers can make on hemp depends mainly upon two factors — how soon they can begin producing it and the strength of its demand.

South Dakota should get with the program and legalize all hemp-based CBD products to help maintain a strong demand for hemp products.

Our farmers deserve support from the state government in the establishment of a new source of revenue.

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