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Politics

Senate To Debate Hemp On Monday, Despite Differences On Funding

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After negotiations on Monday and throughout the week, legislators and Governor Kristi Noem’s office are still determining how to fund an industrial hemp program.

Both camps have vastly different views on how much propping up a program will cost. She wants 43.6 million. Lawmakers call for much less.

House bill 1008 meets three of Governor Noem’s four requirements for allowing industrial hemp in the state.

She wants nearly two million dollars to put infrastructure in place to respond to legalized hemp.

Currently, the state can test cannabis for THC—an intoxicant compound—but it can’t test for how much. Hemp—a cousin of the marijuana plant—has nominal traces of THC. Noem wants a half-million-dollar update to state labs to test for levels.

She also wants a million for drug locker renovations. Noem suggests a hemp program will cost $1.6 million ongoing funds.

Still, Noem says she anticipates lawmakers will fully fund the program…and she won’t need to veto their proposal.

“The figures that we gave them were very detailed and what the resources would be that would be necessary to do it responsibly,” Noem says. “They need to fund it through the Department of Agriculture as many states do. But they need to fund the enforcement actions as well, and the public health actions. That’s the best way to do it to make sure the program has integrity and that we can keep people safe while we implement this new crop.”

Lawmakers suggest a hemp program will cost the state barely five percent of what the governor expects.

Republican Representative Lee Qualm is negotiating with the governor’s office. He agrees with some of the governor’s requests.

“Obviously, we need to have funding in place to get the program up and get it going,” Qualm says. “We have to do that, I understand that for the Department of Ag. But as far as everything else the governor asks for, I guess I just have questions about that. I don’t think it’s that necessary at this point in time.”

Qualm says it’s prudent to wait and see how voters in November decide on two marijuana-related ballot questions this year. State Senators will debate hemp legalization on Monday, which is the last day for bills to pass both chambers.

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