Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Eagle Butte

Industrial Hemp: My Thoughts and Ideas

Representative Oren Lesmeister

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 3-4 years of the same old arguments about why South Dakota should wait and not legalize industrial hemp. 

Arguments include road side testing, the cost of training South Dakota officers to know the difference between hemp and marijuana identification, how the slow process of THC testing would tie up our state drug lab for years, trying legal cases in South Dakota, and even that our drug dogs will have to be replaced.

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 legalize industrial hemp, yet we (proponents) have answered almost every single question that has been brought forward to date. 

And still we have not once heard them bring forward an idea to solve their problems or answer to their questions. Are they not looking for solutions or answers? 

As I kept driving along, I found myself going over the numerous hemp tours that I and others have attended, including the industrial hemp panel discussion from Dakota Fest in Mitchell, the State Fair, and the Summer Study Committee hearings that we have had where our state department heads and other 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 that we cannot justify or fund the cost of training officers nor can we take them away from their other duties to support an Industrial Hemp Program, but South Dakota Department of Public Safety Secretary Craig Price recently stated that they are in the process of training our officers to be able to tell the difference between marijuana and industrial hemp.

Does that mean that South Dakota will train our officers because other states do have Hemp Programs, but will not train our officers to know the difference between the two plants in order for citizens of South Dakota to participate in an Industrial Hemp Program? Are the South Dakota tax payers still paying for this or are the other states paying for the training of our officers since we are still in “wait mode”?

Secondly, we will not have to replace all the drug dogs. People need to understand that drug dogs are trained to detect multiple drug odors. Drug dogs will hit on industrial hemp as with marijuana, and other drugs- that is great, that is what they are trained to do. I’ve spoken to dog handlers and trainers and if they do, they will still be rewarded as before, even if it is industrial hemp. 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 whether the industrial hemp being transported legally or is an illegal substance. Other states are doing this and have been doing this for a few years now.

Third, is that testing facilities will be tied up. As I stated during the panel discussion, we need to purchase at least two more testing machines for law enforcement, regardless of whether or not we have an industrial hemp program. I will make this proposal this year during session. Why? Because we have been told now for a few years that is take months, if not longer, to get tests results back for court cases. This is not acceptable.

These problems need to be solved whether we have industrial hemp or not. The cost of these machines is expensive, but I feel it is 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 opponents have. I do too. As the same as in corn, wheat, soybeans, forage crops, beef, we ask ourselves everyday about the long-lasting effects of things we grow and buy. Look at this – gluten is now the latest thing to pop up from a long grown and eaten crop. Peanut allergy is another example. We have been using peanuts in things forever, yet we are finding out how deadly they can be. Are we studying the high phosphorus levels and long-lasting effects of corn in cattle, a crop that has been grown and fed to them forever? Or allergens to the different soaps, detergents, lotions, or even our name brand vitamin supplements that have sometimes 200% of the daily requirement of certain vitamins or minerals that our bodies need? And the FDA statement is, “This Statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.”

My point is, is that we will always have questions about the long-term effect of things we ingest into ourselves and products that we use. Heck, we use them even as we continue to find out the harmful effects and have questions about them, even with the known side effects, including death in some cases.

Industrial Hemp is the same thing – a new crop to the United States, with a long history of use throughout 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 state’s 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- do not bury your heads in the sand. This is here to stay and will not be going away.

The department is going to have to deal with this because of other states around us 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 agriculture departments in other states and try to find out what they are doing to implement hemp programs? When we asked at our last committee hearing in Pierre, Agriculture 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 Department of Agriculture, 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 departments using their ability to propagate rule as we allow them to, then maybe it is time we take back their ability to propagate rule if they are not willing to adapt and work on this issue.

We have heard and seen of the thousands of uses and benefits for industrial hemp in our world. 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 come up with – not just, “What are your questions?”, but “What is the answer?”

Technology is coming online 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:

Remember folks that the Administrative Branch needs to work with the Legislative Branch, not just try to dictate to them. That is why we are two 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-Representative Noem at our national level and has since been signed by President Trump. It has been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Postal Service, TSA, and was decriminalized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Heck, you can even receive a water-use permit to irrigate your hemp crop. They are now in the process of writing crop insurance for hemp, and you can even bank on it.

Think of the new jobs created within our state with this new industry, along with a new crop to put into a rotation for farmers, 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, bedding, and using it for daily cover in landfills, even brake pads on cars. The list keeps growing every day.