Noem Won’t Veto Hemp Bill If It Has Proper ‘Guardrails’

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) – South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is relenting on blocking development of a hemp industry in the state, provided any bill arriving on her desk meets “guardrails” she has laid out to lawmakers.

Hemp is a cousin of marijuana, but with a very low level of THC – the chemical that gives pot its buzz.

Noem announced on Thursday that she still doesn’t think hemp is “a good idea” but would not repeat last year’s veto of a hemp bill if the Legislature passes one that meets her four requirements, which she calls guardrails.

Those are: 1) reliable enforcement standards; 2) responsible regulations for licensing, reporting, and inspections; 3) an appropriate plan for safe transportation; and 4) an adequate funding plan.

Noem vetoed last year’s bill for multiple concerns on public safety, law enforcement, or funding since standard field tests can’t differentiate between hemp and marijuana, and the federal government hadn’t adopted guidelines to implement the approval for hemp given in the last Farm Bill.

She now sees most of those concerns at least partially addressed, with federal guidelines in place, transport of hemp through the state now allowed under federal interstate transport rules, and federal approval given for one South Dakota tribe to move forward with a hemp plan.

State House Majority Leader Lee Qualm says the draft version of a bill that will be introduced early in the session that begins next week already meets most of the requirements laid out by Noem and has an emergency clause putting it into effect in March – possibly too late for a crop this year.

The bill sets a 5-acre minimum for hemp plots, sets a maximum THC level of 3-10ths of 1%, allows processing into CBD oil and other products, and requires growers to have a state license and permit to transport it.

Noem’s office estimates it would cost about $1.9 million to start the program and another $1.6 million to run it. She also wants law enforcement to have the ability to inspect and search hemp fields and facilities.

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