PIERRE, S.D. (Feb. 27, 2017) – A South Dakota bill that would legalize the production and processing of industrial hemp for commercial purposes, and set the foundation to end federal prohibition in practice, passed the House last week.
The Committee on State Affairs introduced House Bill 1204 (HB1204) on Feb. 3. Under the proposed law, any person with a license could plant, grow, harvest, possess, process, sell, and buy industrial hemp.
The proposed licensing program would be “shall issue,” meaning the Department of Agriculture would be required to issue a license to any person meeting statutory requirements. Without this section, the department could deny applications for a myriad of reasons.
The bill specifically bars the department from making licensing contingent on federal permission.
“A license required by this Act is not conditioned on or subject to review or approval by the United States Drug Enforcement Agency.”
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 ignores federal prohibition and authorizes commercial farming and production anyway.
By rejecting any need for federal approval, HB1204 sets the stage to nullify the federal hemp ban in practice. South Dakota could join with other states – including Colorado, Oregon, Maine, Massachusetts, California 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 law 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, 2105, 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!”
HB1204 now moves to the Senate for further consideration. It was referred to the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee where it must pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.