Discussing Hemp in South Dakota at Dakotafest

MITCHELL, S.D.-South Dakota is one of three states that does not allow hemp production. However, it’s a crop that’s on the minds of many farmers. Throughout the state, discussions are being held about the plant, including during a panel at Dakotafest.

The future of hemp is uncertain in South Dakota. So for now, farmers are discussing the challenges and opportunities it could have in the state.

“I think it’s a crop that can really open some doors for farmers who are into corn, soybeans, and wheat just because I think it’s good for the environment,” said Lake Preston Farmer, Ryan Soren. 

To cover all sides of the issue, the panel included South Dakota leaders for and against hemp. As well as Anthony Cortilet, Coordinator for the Minnesota Noxious Weed and Industrial Hemp Program. He says the program began in 2015 with 7 growers. Now there are more than 300.  

“It’s been an alternative to tough times,” said Cortilet. 

“Processing capability for grain, certainly cannabinoid extraction is big and there’s some fiber processing that is starting to happen.”

However, hemp is still a new industry for Minnesota. He says everyone is still figuring out how to navigate it.

“On the one hand, below a certain threshold of THC it’s legal and above a certain threshold it’s still a controlled substance, so you know law enforcement has challenges with it and as a regulator we have challenges with it,” said Cortilet.

Which is why South Dakota’s Secretary of Public Safety, Craig Price is hesitant to bring it to South Dakota. 

“We don’t have any way right now that I’m aware of to field test any product we find on the road. If an officer stops a car, smells hemp or marijuana, that smells the same,” said Price. 

However, several state lawmakers like Democratic Minority Whip Oren Lesmeister say they are learning from other states and that it’s time to level the playing field.

“With that ability, we can see some economic boom. We can get another crop rotation, another crop to put in a rotation that has all kinds of benefits we are learning about,” said Lesmeister. 

Governor Noem released a statement this week about hemp. She urges legislators to carefully consider the unknowns surrounding industrial hemp and believes there are still more questions than answers about the plant.


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