Legalizing hemp would benefit S.D. farmers amid flooding and trade wars

South Dakota could be seeing changes in 2020 for what farmers are allowed to grow in the state — unless Gov. Kristi Noem has anything to say about it.

In March of 2019, Gov. Noem vetoed a bill that would have allowed farmers to grow hemp. Since then, certain state representatives have formed a bipartisan bill to bring to the next legislative session. 

The group of representatives has been working diligently to gain enough support in response to Gov. Noem’s promise that if another bill to legalize hemp came up in 2020 that she would veto it, once again. While representatives in favor of hemp are not able to promise the bill will be brought into law, they are more hopeful this time and continue to work towards a veto-proof vote. 

Gov. Noem’s concerns about hemp come from her fear that legalizing hemp will also legalize marijuana. While representatives have tried to find a middle ground with the governor and agree that marijuana must remain illegal, certain citizens have other ideas in mind.

“South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws” has been looking for signatures for a petition that would put two initiatives on the 2020 ballot. One legalizes marijuana for adults 21 or older, and the second legalizes medical marijuana for qualifying patients. The group has been seen around Sioux Falls looking for 30,000 signatures needed by Oct. 31 to get the initiated measures on the 2020 ballot. 

While the legislature has found bipartisan support for hemp legalization, marijuana has split support between republicans and democrats. To avoid making the bill a partisan issue, it is likely that representatives in favor of marijuana legalization will wait to show support until the 2020 hemp measure is brought to vote. 

Marijuana’s split opinion in the state legislature has been to the benefit of Gov. Noem who uses marijuana legalization as a way to scare some South Dakotans into a mindset that growing hemp would serve as a gateway for marijuana in the state. If Gov. Noem was truly concerned about South Dakotans, she would welcome farmers to make money in a new market after a rough season of flooding, the start of a trade war and natural disasters. Instead of keeping farmers on track with many other agricultural states that have embraced hemp, the governor has left the state lagging behind.

It is too soon to know whether the petition will get enough signatures to put marijuana on the ballot, and it is too early to see how it could affect the support of the hemp bill. But, it shows definite steps toward major potential changes in South Dakota law.


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