South Dakota Industrial Hemp Bill Passes Senate

Industrial hemp bill - South Dakota
Image: TinaKru

The effort to reintroduce industrial hemp to the fields of South Dakota is turning out to be a long and hard-fought battle.

Introduced to the state’s legislature in early February, HB 1191 was passed by the House 65-2 late in the month, despite South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem wanting to put the brakes on it. The Governor has concerns the state isn’t ready yet and fears legalizing hemp is the thin edge of the wedge in terms of legalizing marijuana – a very different crop altogether.

HB 1191 then went on to the Senate where it was initially defeated earlier this week, even though the vote in favour was 21 – 14. The Argus Leader reports Senate president Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden ruled the bill failed to pass because it wasn’t a two-thirds majority vote and that majority was required because HB 1191 created a license fee.

However, the Senate wasn’t done yet. It was reconsidered again on Tuesday and was passed 23 – 12 according to the  HB 1191 record. According to primary sponsor of the bill  Oren Lesmeister, an amended version of the bill puts the proceeds of fees into the state’s general fund, avoiding the requirement of two-thirds majority vote.

Having passed the Senate, it will return to the House for a vote and if it passes muster, it will then go to Governor Noem. If Governor Noem exercises an option veto the bill, it can be overridden by the legislature but will require two-thirds or more of the vote. 

Senator Lesmeister has reportedly commented he has never seen an administration fight a bill so hard.

HB 1191 seeks to legalize not only the growth and production of industrial hemp (defined as any part of the plant Cannabis sativa L. with a THC concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis) in South Dakota, but also processing of plant material and derivative products.

This isn’t the first time an industrial hemp bill has made significant progress in the state. Back in February 2016, HB 1054 was passed by the  South Dakota House, 57 votes in favor to 11 opposed. It went on to the Senate, where it died soon after.