I wanted to headline this post, “Rapid City—Sanctuary City for Hemp!” but that would be overtagging. Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo hasn’t declared amnesty for anyone vending or using CBD oil or the other hemp products that so befuddle and befear our Governor; he’s just not sure busting hemp users would hold up in court:
“At this point, I have not been convinced that we can prosecute those cases,” Vargo said in an email to the Journal. He’s also not convinced the products are legal, he said in a followup phone call. “It’s most fair to say that I have not made up my mind one way or the other.”
Vargo said he can’t make a decision on whether his office will prosecute until he has a better understanding of the law. He also said he’s unaware of anyone being arrested for possession of hemp-derived CBD oil in Pennington County [Arielle Zionts, “AG’s Statements on Hemp, CBD Oil Cause Confusion for Local Businessman, State’s Attorney,” Rapid City Journal, 2019.04.14].
Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg clarified—
Just stop right there. When we see “Ravnsborg” and “clarified” together, we should know a punchline is coming.
On March 25, A.G. Ravnsborg said that, the federal Farm Bill notwithstanding, “hemp and CBD oils remain illegal in South Dakota.” During last week’s snowstorm (which Zionts says kept Ravnsborg himself incommunicado), Ravnsborg’s chief of staff Tim Bormann reiterated, “Hemp, whether industrial or not, along with CBD oil, in any form, is illegal.” Zionts notes that Bormann’s selective citation of statute explains why the situation is not as clear as Ravnsborg’s office asserts:
Bormann cited South Dakota Codified Law 22-42-1(7) which says, in part, marijuana is “all parts of any plant genus cannabis, whether growing or not, in its natural and unaltered state” while SDCL 34-20B-1(12) says, in part, marijuana is “all parts of any plant of the genus cannabis, whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant or its seeds.”
“Hemp is a plant of the genus cannabis and as such falls squarely under both definitions,” Bormann said. He said hemp-derived CBD oil is illegal since it’s made from the plant’s flowers.
Bormann did not cite a part of the second law that says marijuana does “not include fiber produced from the mature stalks of the plant, or oil or cake made from the seeds of the plant, or the resin when extracted from any part of the plant or cannabidiol, a drug product approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration” [Zionts, 2019.04.14].
Clearly my hemp sneakers are not illegal, contrary to Ravnsborg’s and Bormann’s assertions. How much else might they be getting wrong in their sitting up and barking for hemp-phobic Governor Noem? Since we can’t count on Jason Ravnsborg to understand or explain the law, we’ll have to wait for real lawmen like State’s Attorney Vargo to do the real legal research and come up with a solid answer.
Rapid City may not yet be a sanctuary city for hemp products, but it may be a sanctuary of reasonable interpretation and application of hemp law.