Hemp bill passes through committee

Shannon Marvel
Forum News Service

PIERRE, S.D. — A bill that would legalize the growth and production of industrial hemp and derivative products in South Dakota was passed Feb. 6 in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Lawmakers approved an amendment to House Bill 1008, which cleaned up licensing requirements and fees during the meeting as well.

The bill meets three of Governor Kristi Noem’s “guardrails,” according to Katie Hruska, deputy general counsel for the Governor’s Office.

“The legislative summer study met several times throughout the course of the summer and came up with a really good framework for growing hemp in South Dakota,” Hruska said. “Just before session we issued four guardrails, the bill as amended contains three of the four guardrails. The fourth guardrail needs to be addressed during the budget process.”

Hruska said the estimated cost of legalizing hemp in South Dakota would be $3.5 million. That total includes both one time and ongoing costs, Hruska said.

Kara Semmler with the governor’s office also noted that law enforcement will have great discretion when determining whether someone would be criminally charged if their hemp crop tests higher for THC than allowed.

“If the evidence shows that the individual was intending to grow hemp, there’s no intent to charge that person with a crime,” Semmler said.

“If the evidence was to indicate that the person was trying to grow marijuana that’s illegal and remains illegal.”

State Rep. Oren Lesmeister, D-Parade, said a hemp crop can be destroyed by burning it, killing it with chemicals or taking it out mechanically.

Lesmeister noted that destroyed hemp crops can be used to improve soil health since the hemp plant helps build microbes in the soil.

HB 1008 will now go to the House floor after being passed through committee on an 11-0 vote.