PIERRE, S.D. (Mar. 30, 2017) – A South Dakota bill that would have legalized the production and processing of industrial hemp for commercial purposes, and set the foundation to end federal prohibition in practice, was killed by a Senate committee.
The Committee on State Affairs introduced House Bill 1204 (HB1204) on Feb. 3. Under the language of the bill, any person with a license could plant, grow, harvest, possess, process, sell, and buy industrial hemp.
The proposed licensing program would have been “shall issue,” meaning the Department of Agriculture would be required to issue a license to any person meeting statutory requirements. Additionally, the bill would have explicitly banned the department from making licensing contingent on federal permission.
HB1204 was killed by the Republican-dominated Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. Senators Bob Ewing, Jeff Monroe, Ernie Otten, Joshua Klumb, and Gary Cammack – all Republicans – voted the bill down while Senators Deb Soholt, Jordan Youngberg, Jason Frerichs, Troy Heinert voted in its favor. In a subsequent vote, HB1204 was tabled and will not receive further consideration during the current legislative year.
The bill had previously passed the House by an overwhelming 51-16 vote. South Dakota residents will have to wait at least another year before the possibility of achieving hemp freedom within their state.
FEDERAL FARM BILL
Early in 2014, President Barack Obama signed a new farm bill into law, which included a provision allowing a handful of states to begin limited research programs growing hemp. The “hemp amendment”
"…allows State Agriculture Departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp, defined as the non-drug oil-seed and fiber varieties of Cannabis, for academic or agricultural research purposes, but it applies only to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law."
In short, current federal law authorizes the farming of hemp – by research institutions only, for research only. Farming for commercial purposes by individuals and businesses remains prohibited. HB1204 would have ignored federal prohibition and authorizes commercial farming and production anyway.
Of course, the federal government lacks any legal authority to ban or regulate industrial hemp within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition
By rejecting any need for federal approval, HB1204 would have set the stage to block the federal hemp ban in practice. South Dakota could have joined with other states – including Colorado, Oregon, Maine, Massachusetts, California and Vermont – that simply ignored federal prohibition and legalized industrial hemp production within their state borders.
While prospective hemp growers would still have to take federal law into consideration, by eliminating the state requirement for federal permission, the South Dakota law would have cleared away a major obstacle to widespread commercial hemp farming within the borders of the state.
Farmers in SE Colorado started harvesting the plant in 2013, and farmers in Vermont began harvesting in 2014, effectively thwarting federal restrictions on such agricultural activities. On Feb. 2, 2015, the Oregon hemp industry officially opened for business and one week later, the first license went to a small non-profit group. As more people engage in hemp production and the market grows within these states, more people will become emboldened creating an exponential wave, ultimately stopping the federal ban in effect.
HUGE MARKET FOR HEMP
According to a 2005 Congressional Research Service report, the U.S. is the only developed nation that hasn’t developed an industrial hemp crop for economic purposes.
Experts suggest that the U.S. market for hemp is around $600 million per year. They count as many as 25,000 uses for industrial hemp, including food, cosmetics, plastics and bio-fuel. The U.S. is currently the world’s #1 importer of hemp fiber for various products, with China and Canada acting as the top two exporters in the world.
During World War II, the United States military relied heavily on hemp products, which resulted in the famous campaign and government-produced film, “Hemp for Victory!”