Four of the five legislators at Aberdeen’s final 2019 crackerbarrel yesterday expressed unequivocal support for the bills legalizing industrial hemp in South Dakota—House Bill 1191 on general hemp authorization (at the bottom of tomorrow’s Senate calendar) and House Bill 1212 spending $10K right now to set up a state hemp licensure program (a bit higher on Monday’s Senate calendar).
One legislator equivocated: Senator Al Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen).
Three citizens asked about hemp. All three seemed to support letting farmers grow this once and future great American crop. (You know what brought the Puritans to America? Hemp sails.) The only farmer at the podium, Representative Drew Dennert (R-3/Aberdeen), said hemp offers a great chance to produce more goods locally. Rep. Dennert also brilliantly refuted with one clever Adam Smith shrug an opposition argument that hemp won’t be profitable with one clever shrug:
Even if it isn’t a profitable crop, why wouldn’t we allow the farmers to decide whether or not they want to grow hemp? If it’s not profitable—first of all, corn and soybeans aren’t profitable, should we make a law saying we can’t grow that? [Rep. Drew Dennert, crackerbarrel, Aberdeen, SD, 2019.03.02]
City boy and rookie Representative Kaleb Weis (R-2/Aberdeen) intelligently refuted Governor Kristi Noem’s anti-hemp enforcement freak-out, repeating Senator Deb Soholt’s (R-14/Sioux Falls) point that hemp will be coming through South Dakota on I-29 and I-90 anyway from all the other states that legalize it, so blocking hemp production here won’t spare our Highway Patrollers from having to distinguish hemp bales from reefer semis on the highways.
To another audience member’s urging that the Senate not foul up this good agricultural opportunity, Senator Susan Wismer (D-1/Britton) said she favors the hemp bills with “no question.” She said hemp and marijuana are “completely different plants” and said the fact that the bill made it out of Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources on Thursday signals that it has enough Senate votes to both pass and override a gubernatorial veto.
But then Senator Novstrup, showing a bit of a sore neck from the Governor’s leash, to talk about himself and his brilliant passive Swiss leadership rather than the issue. Eventually he got around to saying he’s “going to stay in the middle” on HB 1191, because he apparently doesn’t know the answer yet. At the end, sensing some audience dissatisfaction, Al claimed he’s leaning yes:
Bless rookie Representative Carl Perry (R-3/Aberdeen) for making clear at the end that the other Republicans in the room have already figured out that hemp is good… and let me tell you, Al: if Kaleb Weis can figure something out that quickly, surely a nine-term legislator like you should have figured it out by now.
Another audience member followed up with a very sensible practical question: can hemp grow in fields where maybe corn and soybeans don’t do as well? Farmer Drew kept it short: yes.
To back Rep. Dennert’s statement, hemp grows fast, crowds out weeds, and requires fewer inputs than corn and soybeans. According to Penn State Extension, mourning doves like hemp seed, but deer don’t damage hemp as much as they damage corn and soybeans.
Senator Novstrup says he needs more information. Farmers, advocates, Senator Novstrup’s e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. His home phone is 605-360-9711. I’d say, “Light him up!” but I wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. Let’s “Learn him up!”