As I drove home from the South Dakota State fair in Huron, after attending the Industrial Hemp Panel put on by the South Dakota Farmers Union, I started to go over the past three to four years of the same-old, same-old argument on why South Dakota should wait and NOT legalize industrial hemp in our state.

As I think about this topic, I realize that most of us have not heard one single new argument from opponents on why not to grow hemp, yet we (the proponents) have answered almost every single question that has been brought forward to date. Still we have not once heard them (the opponents of hemp) bring forward an idea to solve their problems or answer their questions. Are they not looking for solutions or answers?

They argue many things: roadside testing; the cost is too much to train South Dakota officers in the difference between hemp and marijuana; THC testing is so slow that it would tie up our state drug lab for years on trying legal cases; even our drug dogs will have to be replaced.

As I kept driving along, I found myself going over the industrial hemp panel discussion from Dakota Fest in Mitchell to the one in Huron at the State Fair again, and also the numerous recent hemp tours that I and others have attended. I even thought about the past couple of Summer Study Committee hearings the legislature had, where our department heads and department heads from other states have testified on this subject.

Then something struck me that made me very upset:

First, one of the arguments has been “we cannot justify or fund the cost of training officers and take them away from their other duties to support an industrial hemp program.” Yet, Secretary Price just stated in Huron that they are in the process of training our officers to be able to tell the difference between the two.

Does that mean South Dakota will NOT train their officers to know the difference between the two plants? But we will train our officers because other states do have hemp programs? Are the South Dakota taxpayers still paying for this? Or are the other states paying for the training of our officers since we are still in the wait mode?

Second, replacing all the drug dogs... no, WE WILL NOT! People need to understand that drug dogs are trained to detect multiple drug odors. The dogs will hit on industrial hemp as with marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines or any other drug they are trained to hit on.

I’ve spoken to dog handlers and trainers, if the dogs hit on industrial hemp, they will still be rewarded as before. If an officer comes across this issue, we will have everything we can put in place in a program for them to use right there on the spot to find out weather it’s industrial hemp being transported legally or an illegal substance. Other states are doing this now and have been doing this for a few years.

Third, tying up testing facilities: I stated during the panel discussion that we need to purchase at least two more testing machines for law enforcement, whether or not we have an industrial hemp program, and I mean that! I will make that proposal this year during session.

Why? Because we have been told for a few years that it can take months, if not longer, to get tests results back for court cases. That is NOT acceptable, and our coat closet drug locker needs to be bigger, too.

So these problems need to be solved whether we have industrial hemp or not. The cost of these machines are expensive, but I feel it well worth the cost to help out our law enforcement personnel keep doing the excellent job that they do.

We have been told that the more and more we look into this, the more and more questions they have. Me too... same as in corn, wheat, soybeans, forage crops, beef, etc. We ask ourselves every day about the long-lasting effects of things we grow and buy.

For example, gluten is the latest thing to pop up from a long-grown and eaten crop. Peanut allergies are another. We’ve been using peanuts in things forever, yet we’re finding out how deadly they can be. Are we studying the high phosphorus levels and long lasting effects of corn now in cattle, a crop that has been grown and fed to them forever? Or allergens to the different soaps, detergents, lotions or even name brand vitamin supplements that have sometimes 200 percent of the daily requirement of certain vitamins or minerals that our bodies need. The FDA statement is “This Statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.”

My point is that we will always have questions about the long term effect of things we ingest and the products we use. Heck, even after the FDA passes a drug or antibiotic, deeming to be safe, but with side effects of even death in some cases, we still will continue use these items, even though we continue to find out the harmful effects and have questions about them.

Industrial hemp is the same thing: a very old, new crop to the U.S., but a continuous use crop to the rest of the world.

The South Dakota Department of Agriculture has stated that they do not have the staff for this. Is agriculture not our number one industry? If so then they should state that they need more personnel to operate this or ask us for more personnel to implement this program. They should not make the statement that they cannot handle this.

Don’t bury your heads in the sand, industrial hemp is here to stay and will not be going away. The department is going to have to deal with this because other states around us are doing it, along with the nine tribes within our state that will also be growing and/or producing hemp products.

Why not reach out to other states’ ag department’s and try to find out what they are doing to implement hemp programs. When asked at our last committee hearing in Pierre, Ag Secretary Kim Vanneman stated that she had not personally talked to other ag departments about this subject directly. This is a program that, through the ag department, will pay for itself by the fees charged to producers and processors in various ways.

If we as legislators need to answer all of the 315 questions or micromanage this issue, instead of the ag department using its ability to propagate rule as we allow them to, then maybe it’s time we take back their ability to make rules, if they are not willing to adapt and work on this issue.

We have heard and seen thousands of uses and benefits for industrial hemp. Remember, every day you are using a product that probably has industrial hemp in it. All of these questions can or have been answered, all we have to do is just reach out to others and ask for the solutions that they came up with..not ask “what are your questions?”, but what is the ANSWER?

Technology is coming on-line fast to help our law enforcement out with some of their concerns and obstacles, such as road side test kit availability. (Here is an article from Virginia: https://www.nbc29.com/story/40976163/law-enforcement-to-upgrade-test-kit-for-hemp-and-marijuana)

Remember folks that the administrative branch needs to work with the legislative branch, not just try to dictate to them. That’s why we are different branches of government.

At the end of the day, industrial hemp is here to stay. Almost every state and most foreign countries have legalized the production and use of industrial hemp. This is a program that was voted on and approved by then US Representative Noem at our national level and since signed by President Trump. It has been approved by the US Dept of Agriculture, the US Postal Service, the Transportation Security Administration, decriminalized by the Drug Enforcement Agency. Heck, you can even receive a water use permit to irrigate your hemp crop, insurers are in the process of writing crop insurance for it, you can even bank on it.

Think of the new jobs, new industry created within our state, along with a new crop to put into a rotation for farmers, if they so choose. The research and innovative ideas that will come forward to replace things like plastic and styrofoam. Even things within the ag field, such as edible net wraps, twine and bedding. Using it for daily cover in landfills, even brake pads on cars. The list keeps growing every day.

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