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Governor's Column - Four Guardrails: A Path Forward for Decriminalizing Industrial Hemp

Four Guardrails: A Path Forward for Decriminalizing Industrial Hemp

By Governor Kristi Noem

January 10, 2020


Over the last year, we’ve had a long conversation about industrial hemp. I’ve been grateful to talk with folks about the topic and hear different perspectives at townhalls, coffee shops, basketball games, and everywhere in between.


And I’ve been outspoken that I don’t think it’s a good idea.


Last year, I vetoed a bill that didn’t address concerns surrounding public safety, law enforcement, or funding. I asked the legislature to wait until we had direction from the federal government and a plan to address those concerns. Now since that time, things have changed. Federal guidelines have been put in place, a South Dakota tribe has been given the green light on production, and other states’ actions mean we need to address hemp transportation through our state. The legislative summer study also did great work, and they included some good ideas.


On January 9, I outlined for the legislature a path forward – four guardrails, if you will – on hemp.


First, it must include reliable enforcement guidelines. This means the moment someone starts growing hemp, they would consent to an inspection and a search. This would all be done without liability to the law enforcement agency, and the actual costs of disposal would be paid by the grower or possessor. The bill must prohibit the sale or use of hemp and hemp derivatives for smoking. And it would include an annual, statistical report by the Attorney General to the legislature and me about the impact decriminalization is having on other criminal drug prosecutions.


Next, the bill must include responsible regulation regarding licensing, reporting, and inspections. This would include a minimum land area size and an appropriate fee structure for the application, annual license, and inspection.


Third, the law must require a permit and any other needed paperwork for all safe transportation of the product. And for those who transport it without appropriate documentation, there must be appropriate legal consequences.


And last, the law must have adequate funding. I believe decriminalization will cost about $3.5 million (adding up one-time and ongoing costs), and there must be a plan to pay for it. A plan that doesn’t include raising taxes.


These are the pieces I need to see in a bill in order to consider signing it into law. Given all that we need to accomplish this session, if we can get this done in the coming weeks, it would be a good way to kick off this year’s legislative session.