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Still No Agreement On Hemp Cost In Capitol

Jamie Edwards
North Dakota Hemp Farmer

In the final weeks of the 2020 legislative session, discussions are ramping up over how to fund an industrial hemp program.

But lawmakers are working with vastly different takes on how much the program will cost.

There’s still no agreed upon number.

That’s a requirement Senate Majority Leader Kris Langer has before she’ll consider scheduling the house hemp bill for debate… its final step before reaching the governor’s desk.

Leadership and the governor’s office met on Monday to decide a cost all parties could agree on. No one budged.

The governor’s office says it will cost the state about 3.5 million dollars in one time and ongoing funds. The legislature estimates it’ll cost about $245,000 to prop up. Their cost estimate to the state is even less when considering revenue from licenses and fees.

House Majority Leader Lee Qualm disagrees with the cost proposed by the executive branch.

“That’s the number they believe in, that’s the numbers they feel comfortable with,” Qualm says. “I think there’s room for negotiation there—at least I’d certainly like to believe there is. We’re going to do our best to come to a number that’s amenable to everybody and go from there.”

Qualm says he doesn’t see a lot of hemp getting planted in the first year, coverage of which he says the state can deal with at a minimal cost.

The legislature estimates the Department of Ag will bear the brunt of enforcing a hemp program the first year, with a part-time Department of Public Safety Officer inspecting hemp fields.

However, the Department of Public Safety sees a one-time cost of 1.15 million dollars for operating expenses, portable test kits and storage lockers among other costs. They estimate enforcing a hemp program will cost more than a million dollars annually after that.

When asked if the legislature’s number would meet one of Governor Noem’s guardrails for legalizing hemp, Department of Public Safety Secretary Craig Price said ‘no.’