PIERRE, S.D. (Feb. 2, 2016) A bill passed today by a South Dakota House committee would legalize the production and processing of industrial hemp for commercial purposes in the state, setting the foundation for people there to nullify federal prohibition in practice.

Rep. Mike Verchio (R-Hill City) along with a bipartisan coalition of 39 cosponsors introduced House Bill 1054 (HB1054) earlier in the month. It passed the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee by a vote of 11-2.

If passed into law, the bill would legalize the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp for commercial purposes in South Dakota. If reads, in part:

Upon meeting the requirements of sections 2 to 6, inclusive, of this Act, any person in this state may plant, grow, harvest, possess, process, sell, and buy industrial hemp (cannabis sativa l.) having no more than three-tenths of one percent tetrahydrocannabinol.

The bill would create a licensing process for prospective hemp growers, and specifically asserts that the license shall not be subject to federal approval.

“A license required by this act is not conditioned on or subject to review or approval by the United States Drug Enforcement Agency.”

The federal government maintains virtual prohibition of hemp production, only allowing research facilities to grow the crop with a federal waiver. Passage of this legislation would set the foundation for people to nullify the federal ban in practice.

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. HB1054 ignores federal prohibition and authorizes commercial farming and production anyway.

OTHER STATES

By rejecting any need for federal approval, HB1054 would set the stage to nullify the federal hemp ban in practice. South Dakota can join with other states – including Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, Connecticut, Maine, North Dakota and Vermont – that have 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 legislature would clear 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 nullifying federal restrictions on such agricultural activities. On Feb. 2 of last year, 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 nullifying 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!”.

HB1054 represents an essential first step toward hemp freedom in the state of South Dakota.

WHAT’S NEXT

HB1054 is expected to move to the full House for further debate and consideration.

If you live in South Dakota: For action steps to help get this bill passed click HERE.

For other states: Take action to push back against hemp prohibition HERE.


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