A proposal that received approval from the South Dakota House on Feb. 11 would legalize and regulate the production and transportation of hemp in the state.
According to The Associated Press, the South Dakota House has passed this proposal so far. Legislators didn’t need to debate the issue, and so far it has passed with a two-thirds majority. If the Senate passes the bill, it will then move on to Gov. Kristi Noem, who will decide whether or not to sign it into law. Should Gov. Noem sign the bill, an emergency clause will immediately take effect, allowing farmers to grow hemp as early as this year.
However, Noem has said in the past that she has said that she believes hemp is not a “good idea” and prefers not to legalize it. However, more recently she has backed away from this opinion and allowed her office to help make sure that the bill is aligned with her standards.
Finances could be an issue for this as well. It would cost about $3.5 million to get the program up and running. Noem wants legislators to figure out how to make room in the budget for the possible new hemp industry.
Rep. Lee Qualm, the legislator who introduced the bill, is concerned about funding but mainly wants to focus on seeing the measure pass. “We just need to keep moving this forward,” he said.
Other lawmakers have problems and complaints about the current budget estimations for the program. They claim the state would need to pay for testing and regulating hemp, since hemp will be transported through South Dakota from other states.
If the bill becomes law, the USDA would still need to approve the program, but if progress is made quickly, farmers could be growing hemp sometime in 2020.
In addition to trying to push through hemp legalization, South Dakota officials are also looking to legalize cannabis in 2020, although that could be more of a longshot. Still, activists in the state strongly support moving forward and at least some degree of legalization could also be around the corner.