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Noem Flip-Flops on Hemp… Thanks to New Management?

hemp flip flops
Let’s see if the Gentlewoman from Hamlin County can make these flip-flops look good….

Governor Kristi Noem’s New Year’s Resolutions apparently include bringing flip-flops to work. After letting the Legislature re-assign the State of the Tribes Address from her tribal relations secretary to an actual tribal chairman without a peep, Governor Noem is now dropping her vow to veto any hemp legislation.

In September, Noem declared on the pages of the Wall Street Journal that she would kill any hemp bill:

When I was sworn in as South Dakota’s governor in January, opposing industrial hemp and marijuana legalization weren’t on my list of key issues. But during the first legislative session of my tenure, I vetoed a measure to legalize industrial hemp. If the issue comes up this year, I will veto it again,

…Every experiment needs a control. I believe the social experiment our nation is conducting with highly potent legal weed will end poorly. But to create evidence for a comparison, we need leaders willing to stand up and say, ‘No’ [Gov. Kristi Noem, “Why I Won’t Support Legalizing Hemp,” Wall Street Journal, 2019.09.10; quoted in Governor’s Office press release, 2019.09.10].

Now Noem says “things have changed” and she wants to kick off Session by legalizing hemp:

Governor Kristi Noem today sent the legislature her “Four Guardrails” for a path forward on decriminalizing industrial hemp. She also released the following statement:

“Over the last year, we’ve had a long conversation about legalizing hemp, and everyone

knows that I don’t think it’s a good idea.

“Last year, I vetoed a bill that didn’t address concerns surrounding public safety, law enforcement, or funding. I asked the legislature to wait until we had direction from the federal government and a plan to address those concerns. Now since that time, things have changed. Federal guidelines have been put in place, a South Dakota tribe has been given the green light on production, and other states’ actions mean we need to address hemp transportation through our state. The legislative summer study also did great work, and they included some good ideas.

“Today, I am outlining for the legislature a path forward – four guardrails, if you will – on hemp. These include: 1) reliable enforcement standards; 2) responsible regulations regarding licensing, reporting, and inspections; 3) an appropriate plan for safe transportation; and 4) an adequate funding plan.

“Given all that we need to accomplish this session, if we can get this done in the coming weeks, it would be a good way to kick off this year’s legislative session” [Gov. Kristi Noem, press release, 2020.01.09].

Just last month, Governor Noem said “to set up a hemp program and make sure we have the law enforcement needs that we need” would cost “ten to twelve million dollars.” Now she says hemp regulation will cost $1.9 million to set up and $1.6 million in ongoing expenses:

Noem's hemp cost estimate 20200109
Governor’s Office, estimate of one-time and ongoing costs for regulating hemp in South Dakota, 2020.01.09.

Two scientists, three ag bureaucrats, four dogs, ten cops… oh yeah, and $50,000 for an ad campaign.

Notably absent from the Governor’s list of “things” that “have changed” is the most likely explanation for this political about-face: the Legislature had the votes to override a veto, and Noem didn’t want to that egg on her face. Majority Leader Lee Qualm (R-21/Platte) hasn’t said so, but he is saying the conditions Noem now says will make hemp legislation acceptable are already in a bill lawmakers have in the chute:

House Majority Leader Lee Qualm, R-Platte, said lawmakers already have a draft of the bill and planned to introduce it early in the legislative session that starts next week. He said the bill already meets most of the requirements laid out by Noem.

The bill would allow people to grow hemp if they have a minimum plot size of 5 acres and keep the THC level of the plant below 0.3%. THC is the compound that produces a high in marijuana. It would also allow hemp to be processed into CBD oil and other products. Producers would need to obtain a license from the state and a permit to transport it.

Qualm said the current version of the bill contains an emergency clause that would make it go into effect in March so that farmers could begin planting hemp seeds in the spring. But Qualm was not sure if that provision will survive. South Dakota would still need to get its hemp plans approved by the Department of Agriculture, which might not give farmers enough time to to take advantage of this year’s hemp season [Stephen Groves, “Noem Drops Opposition to Hemp, but Calls for ‘Guardrails’,” AP via Brookings Register, 2020.01.09].

Qualm’s bill is House Bill 1008, filed yesterday.

One thing that has definitely changed since Noem’s oh-so-recent and staunch declarations of opposition to hemp is that she’s under new management. In her Christmas Eve-Eve Massacre, Noem sacked her chief of staff and her communications chief and brought in a Beltway outsider to seniorly advise her. When Maggie Seidel declared Noem a “visionary” in the press last week, she may have meant she has gotten Noem to see the writing on the wall: Hemp is coming, the Legislature has the votes, and you look uninformed and irrational for opposing it. Opposing hemp also endangers our Legislative agenda. Flip now, and you look open-minded and sensible, you give wavering members of your party cover to vote for something popular without making you look weak, and you get this issue out of the way early so you can bury it in the news cycle of the budget and the other big things we need to fight for this Session.

Dang, that sounds like excellent advice. Maybe Noem’s returning Legislative shepherd Tony Venhuizen had something to do with that, too.

Noem’s complete flip-flop on hemp shows things have changed: she appears to have assertive and practical grown-ups managing her instead of toadies who can’t say no to their matron.


  1. Mark 2020-01-10

    The Dope Queen of Delusion changed her position on hemp because the
    Sovereign Nations in our state we’re going to get a clear lead in that industry
    and HOLY HEMP !!!!
    We cant have that ….

  2. Dana Palmateer 2020-01-10

    Boy…… Ms Noem has put on her full Gumby suit on this one, hasn’t she?

    What about the $10-12 million dollars needed to do this program, and those dollars just aren’t there?

    What about taking law enforcement away from the meth epidemic? (I know one of her guardrails is funding for LEO)

    What about all of that money needed for industrial hemp in this state, that would take money away from the sick? From education?

    What about doing all of this for a program that she is convinced the farmers don’t overwhelmingly want? (she hadn’t had one single ag organization come to her and say, please please please- give them hemp)

    What about the concern for law enforcement? That they wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between hemp and marijuana?

    All of my above sarcastic questions are well sourced, thanks to Cory’s blogging about her ‘heels dug in’ on hemp blogs. These questions are taken from her own quotes!

    I don’t disagree with you Cory that perhaps smarter heads have prevailed. To talk the snow princess down from her heel shine box. After going on the airwaves over and over and her “no hemp” stance, this gumby maneuver makes her look really weak. I wonder how Helene Duhamel is feeling right about now after falling on her sword for the “she picked me because I won’t let the legislators override her veto” stance.

    It is as simple as she was seeing herself as a one term governor, if she didn’t un-dig her heels on hemp? that is perhaps my ‘duh’ question, huh?

  3. Bob Newland 2020-01-10

    I have a suspicion Helene will have a revelation. That is to say, she might see the light, as well.

  4. Sharon Neva 2020-01-10

    There’s a catch here. She has stacked the deck with NAY votes from her 2 appointees. Helene duhamels first remarks after her appointment was that she was against hemp. (No one had even asked). It dies in the Senate & she doesn’t have to veto it. She saves face & has no blood on her hands.

  5. Robert McTaggart 2020-01-10

    Will independent oversight for assaying hemp products for heavy metals and pesticides be included in any proposed legislation or licensing standards?

    On one hand, because hemp is a good absorber of various heavy metals it could be used in environmental remediation. On the other hand, those metals that are preferentially absorbed wherever it is grown can find their way into secondary products.

    The good news is that if no marijuana is grown near the hemp fields, there is less cross-pollination and then less potential for a loss of crop due to higher THC levels. Thus if you really want hemp to succeed, keep marijuana as far away from hemp as possible.

    Then let the free market decide whether hemp is successful or not….people are free to lose their own money, just do it safely.

  6. Neal 2020-01-10

    I think she’s doing this to take away from Amendment A.

    If hemp is already legal, there’s one fewer reason to vote for the amendment.

  7. Debbo 2020-01-10

    I’m tagging this along as a sign of how deeply the GOP supports farmers.

    “Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) has a disgraceful new defense for Trump’s unnecessary trade war: that it’s fine if farmers are going bankrupt because their sacrifices are ‘minimal’ compared to the sacrifices made by members of the military.”

    Per the GOP, you farmers are the new collateral damage. Tough cookies, I guess.

  8. Robert McTaggart 2020-01-10

    I don’t think hemp will support farmers if it loses money.

    But I will agree with you Debbo that we need to get back to feeding the world. I would go further and say that supporting the development of more crops that are climate-change-resistant and resource-efficient would help farmers too.

  9. Debbo 2020-01-10

    Mac, did you read my comment?

  10. Robert McTaggart 2020-01-10

    I am agreeing with you that we need to get our trade policy in order. Let’s keep our eye on the ball….the bigger prize is feeding a growing world population.

  11. Donald Pay 2020-01-10

    There are other states that have started out on hemp, so their experience might be useful in designing a program. Wisconsin has done a gradually expanding pilot program for the first two growing seasons. There are problems if it grows too big for the regulators to do a good job. If THC testing is not done on time because testing is delayed due to too few regulators, the THC level can go beyond the limits. The farmer has to destroy the crop through no fault of their own.

    In Wisconsin farmers who want to grow hemp are charged fees up front to pay for the regulation. Hemp in Wisconsin has proven to be a finicky crop. It is more labor intensive than most of the things farmers do these days. Most are starting with a very small patch.

    I’m not sure on what basis the cost estimates are made. It would be wise to do a year or two pilot project with a hundred or so growers the first year. Figure out the costs, and charge a reasonable permit fee. Third party testing would decrease the need for state employees. Sampling should be randomized. There’s a lot to consider, and South Dakota is getting a late start on this. I’m afraid they will try to cut corners, or overestimate the costs, resulting in failure.

  12. Gary Swensen 2020-01-11

    Kristy Noem was born in 1971 during the Vietnam war 1959-1975 during the rise Of ILEGAL drugs it escalated and smuggling drugs in caskets Of dead soldiers became a multi million dollar business. Of course Kristy Noem did not Major in History and she was in Diapers in 1971

    Gary Swensen Yankton County Commissioner U.S. Army 1970-1973 First Infantry Division Big Red One.. D.A.V.
    Education ….
    U.S.D. History Ed. And Criminal Justice…
    Have a Great weekend…
    58,479 men and women died because of Vietnam yes, women almost 8,000 women served in Vietnam most were Nurses and yes many were KILLED..Want proof e mail me I have pictures.

  13. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-01-11

    Neal, you make a point worth considering further:

    Could Noem and the Legislature use Hb 1008 as a way to defuse support for Amendment A? That struck me back in November, right after that petition reached Pierre with its 53K+ signatures, as one reason the Legislature could push its own hemp bill. That assumes, of course, that the Legislature has any enthusiasm for opposing Amendment A. They may not have as much invested in standing strong against marijuana as Noem, who has now built her nationwide image on fighting a death battle against drug use.

    Now just three days after SOS Barnett puts that marijuana+hemp amendment on the ballot, Noem completely reverses herself on hemp. I’m going to speculate that, for her personally, the thought of losing a veto fight may be more compelling than the actual policy implications for South Dakota. But she would also take a hit on image if, after declaring her all out war on meth, the voters wrote marijuana into the constitution. She might also take such legalization as a personal slight: she’s invested so much in declaring that marijuana is a gateway into meth and other deadly drugs, and then the voters say, “No it’s not! Let’s toke up and tax up!” Marijuana legalization could drive her batty, and she just might be looking for ways to sabotage the ballot measures.

    But if she can play chameleon at the drop of a hat on hemp, maybe she can do the same on marijuana. If she sees 51% of South Dakotans approve marijuana at the 2020 polls, she’ll kick right into 2022 reëlection mode with campaign priorities designed to make us forget all about her anti-drug crusading. She’ll collect the pot taxes and take credit for all the new schools we’re building.

    Do Amendment A and IM 26 pose enough of a threat to Noem that she would cave on hemp to undermine those measures?

  14. Donald Pay 2020-01-11

    My take on this, Cory, is this is one way initiatives are supposed to work. They are supposed to move elected leaders more toward what the citizens want. This is why we continued to push mining initiatives in successive years, even though we knew it would be a steep climb to pass them. The more we pushed the more Governor Mickelson and the Legislature had to respond.

  15. Sharon neva 2020-01-11

    Gary, I grew up in the 70’s. I an ex-law enforcement. I was SO anti-marijuana until I had a friend who took a couple puffs at night. After my initial reaction (OMG) I researched it and found out I was a victim of “reefer madness”.
    If she would have an open mind, she would see she isn’t looking at facts.
    Any doubt marijuana has medical benefits should watch, “ex-cop Larry & Parkinson’s” on YouTube. He us from Sioux Falls.

  16. Bob Newland 2020-01-11

    Did Gary Swenson have a point?

  17. Robert McTaggart 2020-01-11


    An issue with the growth of marijuana for recreational use is that it should be carbon-free. That means all energy that is actually used in the operation. No carbon taxes, no trading of carbon credits to feel good about the carbon you are emitting. Higher THC levels are not feasible without indoor growth and 24-7 power. Those growing operations are power hungry, which means more fossil fuels from grid-based electricity.

    Moreover, all marijuana growing operations should only be done indoors in a secured, controlled environment. That can help control the levels of heavy metals and pesticides that can be taken up by the plants. That avoids cross-pollination (i.e. it avoids increasing THC for hemp, and decreasing THC for marijuana).

    I don’t see how growing marijuana for private or commercial use out in the open supports hemp because of the cross-pollination issue. And this is really about approving and growing hemp….right?

  18. Debbo 2020-01-11

    A friend of mine had a burger at Tommy Jack’s in SF today. She said it’s called the Krusty Noem because it’s infused with hemp seeds.

  19. Debbo 2020-01-11

    I didn’t see it on website menu, so I’m checking with my friend.

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