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Hemp legalization barely hangs on after Noem's opposition, failed Senate vote

PIERRE | A bill to legalize the growth and production of hemp in South Dakota is hanging on by a thread.

House Bill 1191 failed in the Senate Tuesday by a 21-14 vote — just three votes shy of passing by the two-thirds majority margin. Senate President and Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden said the bill required a two-thirds vote because it established fees.

In a last-resort move to save the bill, House Majority Whip Sen. Jordan Youngberg, R-Madison, motioned to reconsider the bill. The Senate will take up the bill again on Wednesday, just one day before the 2019 session’s final deadline to pass bills out of both chambers.

The vote came after weeks of fierce opposition from Republican Gov. Kristi Noem’s administration. Noem has been vocal in her opposition to hemp legalization from the start, saying that South Dakota “isn’t ready” for the crop and that she is “100 percent convinced” that legalizing hemp is a step toward legalizing marijuana.

Hemp is not a drug. It is related to cannabis, a Schedule I controlled substance, but not the same. When ingested, hemp cannot get someone high.

After the House overwhelmingly approved HB 1191 in February, Noem’s administration pushed back harder: Representatives from her office, as well as the Departments of Public Safety, Health and Agriculture testified against the bill at a Feb. 28 legislative committee hearing. The Department of Public Safety showed legislators baggies of hemp bud and marijuana bud, asking them to spot the difference and insisting that police officers wouldn’t be able to.

HB 1191 prime sponsor Rep. Oren Lesmeister, D-Parade, said he has never seen an administration fight a bill so hard. He said he has attempted to work with Noem’s administration to address their concerns with licensing, product transport and hemp-derived supplements like CBD oil.

Asked why he thinks Noem is as opposed to the bill as she is, he replied, “uneducated.” He said the administration’s claims that hemp cannot be differentiated from marijuana are untrue and, “They just need to go on a hemp tour.”

Lesmeister said he and other proponents have done “everything we possibly can with all of the departments” in an attempt to appease the administration. An amendment to the bill essentially rewrote it to the administration's specifications, Lesmeister said, but a governor’s office staffer said the amended version wasn’t good enough, either.

“I think the governor just doesn’t want the bill. Period.” Lesmeister said. “No matter what we put in it, she’s not going to want the bill.”

Proponents of the bill have said that South Dakota will have to find a way to enforce hemp transport whether the state legalizes it or not. With hemp legal federally and in all of South Dakota’s neighboring states but Iowa, they argue that hemp will be transported through the state via the interstate.

“These products are going to be in our state and if we don’t pass this, we’re saying that every other state can move their product into our state except us — except South Dakota producers,” said Senate Minority Leader Troy Heinert, D-Mission.

Congress’s 2018 farm bill, which Noem voted in favor of while still a U.S. representative, legalized hemp on the federal level. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 41 other states have legalized the growth and production of hemp.

Assistant Minority Leader Sen. Craig Kennedy, D-Yankton, said that South Dakota wouldn’t “reinvent the wheel” by legalizing hemp.

“Personally, I’m tired of South Dakota waiting until we’ve got 48 states ahead of us, or 49 states ahead of us, before we do anything,” he said in the debate. “We have farmers in South Dakota today who want to be able to try and take advantage of this new market.”

Seventh-grade girls get science lessons
Area seventh-grade girls discover new career paths at STEM conference

Shyanne Dudley crouched beside a kiddie pool Tuesday to pet live fish. Mere feet away, other seventh-grade girls were piloting remote-controlled drones and playing life-sized versions of Hasbro's "Operation."

"It's really cool. There's a lot of activities you can do, and you learn lots of things," Dudley, 13, of North Middle School in Rapid City, said of the 2019 Women in Science conference.

Hosted by Youth in Science Rapid City and the Women in Science and Engineering Center at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, the annual conference provided information to seventh-grade girls from 21 area schools about science, technology, engineering and mathematics. More than 50 women in STEM career fields spoke at the event, which included a career fair that featured representatives from 25 businesses and organizations. 

Youth in Science President Amy DiRienzo said more than 830 students preregistered for Tuesday's conference at Mines, more than any other previous year. It took more than $20,000 in donations to produce it, she said, with companies like Caterpillar and Halliburton and groups like the South Dakota Space Grant Consortium contributing.

Conference organizers hope to spark an interest in STEM concepts before the girls begin selecting high school courses. 

"A lot of the studies show that starting in middle school girls start to lose interest in math and science or start to decide they're not good at math and science," DiRienzo said. "We wanted to catch them before they've made that choice."

While it's good for the students to figure out what interests them, said Jamie Clapham, it's important that they figure out what they don't like or don't wish to do. Clapham, a physical therapist at the Regional Health Rapid City Hospital, has spoken about her career and work at the conference for the past several years.

"It's a good age for exploring. I told the girls that I used to think that I wanted to be a dentist, but then I figured out that that was not a good fit for me," she said. 

Standoff suspect now faces 25 charges, including attempted murder

A Rapid City man accused of firing a gun at law enforcement officers, vehicles and occupied buildings during a four-hour standoff on New Years Day is facing additional charges, including attempted first-degree murder. 

Jordan Wounded Face, 31, pleaded not guilty Tuesday at the state court in Rapid City to the 25 charges he was indicted on. Prosecutors originally charged him with 16 counts. 

Wounded Face is accused of four counts of attempted first-degree murder for planning to kill law enforcement officers. He's charged in the alternative with two counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and two counts of firing at a vehicle. If Wounded Face is convicted of an attempted murder charge, he can't be found guilty of the alternative count and vice versa. 

He's also facing another aggravated assault on an officer charge and seven charges of firing at an occupied structure. Wounded Face is accused of firing at Subway six times and at the Regional Health Urgent Care once.

The maximum punishment for each attempted murder and assault charge is 25 years in prison. The other felonies have a maximum 15-year sentence. 

Wounded Face is also charged with nine misdemeanors, each punishable by up to one year in jail: seven counts of recklessly firing a weapon, possessing a loaded firearm while intoxicated and drug ingestion. 

Wounded Face was reported to police in the morning of Jan. 1 for making loud noises, throwing things around and may be "dusting," a slang term for getting high off of inhalants, according to a probable cause affidavit.

After a police officer identified herself and asked to speak with Wounded Face, he fired shots, the affidavit said. The Pennington County Special Response Team responded and locked down the 1200 block of Racine Street and evacuated neighboring homes.

Wounded Face continued firing and eventually came out after law enforcement put gas cartridges inside his home, the affidavit says. During two interviews, he said he was depressed and hoped to die via "suicide by cop." Wounded Face said he was high after using alcohol and dust-off, a brand of compressed air used for cleaning.

He allegedly admitted to shooting an SRT vehicle and knowing that his bullets could have hit the businesses across the street from him. He said he knew police were at his home but wasn't aware of the officer trying to get in touch with him and didn't try to shoot at her. 

Wounded Face is scheduled to return to court at 9:30 a.m. on April 9 when he plans to challenge his $250,000 cash-only bond, his lawyer said. 

PHOTOS: Shots fired at Racine Street home