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Noem submits 315 hemp questions to group studying legalization
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Noem submits 315 hemp questions to group studying legalization

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Gov. Kristi Noem has submitted a list of 315 questions to state House and Senate leaders involved in a summer hemp study, her office said Monday.

During a session Monday in Pierre, Noem’s administration planned to urge legislators to consider the unknowns surrounding potential legalization of industrial hemp.

“As leaders, we must have answers to how any new law will be implemented effectively and how it will impact our state," Noem said in a press release.

Noem said she would be "thrilled to lead the charge in introducing a new crop that might bolster markets and support producers during this difficult season," but she said it "could be reckless to introduce a product that has serious implications on the health and safety of the next generation."

Noem vetoed a bill last winter that would have legalized industrial hemp in South Dakota after the 2018 farm bill adopted by Congress authorized states to adopt their own hemp regulations.

Many other states had already allowed experimental hemp-growing that was authorized by the 2014 farm bill, and others have rushed to legalize industrial hemp since the passage of the 2018 farm bill. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, South Dakota is now one of three states (plus the District of Columbia) that does not allow any hemp cultivation — although some cultivation is occurring on Native American reservations in South Dakota, where growers have asserted rights under federal laws.

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Noem’s submitted questions urged lawmakers to consider issues surrounding agriculture and processing, laboratory testing, pharmacy and pharmacology, controlled substance laws, and law enforcement, her press release said. The release noted that earlier this year, South Dakota Highway Patrol officers conducted a test in the Capitol where a drug dog alerted the same way to hemp and marijuana.

Craig Price, South Dakota secretary of public safety, said in Noem's release, “The more we study this issue, the more concerns I have for the impact on public safety.”

Meanwhile, a Monday news release from the South Dakota Farmers Union said it is working with legislators to develop an industrial hemp bill to win Noem's approval in 2020.

The Farmers Union said several legislators met Monday in Pierre with Doug Goehring, the North Dakota commissioner of agriculture, and with leaders from other states where industrial hemp is legal.

House Majority Leader Lee Qualm, R-Platte, the chairman of the Industrial Hemp Summer Study, said in the Farmers Union news release, “We’re working to come up with legislation everyone can be comfortable with.” 

In the same release, state Rep. Oren Lesmeister, D-Parade, said that "the fear industrial hemp is a back way to produce the drug marijuana is unwarranted."

Lesmeister referenced a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture pointing to industrial hemp as an ingredient used in more than 17,000 products, including granola bars, cosmetics, clothing, cattle feed and hempcrete, a strong, lightweight concrete.

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