PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) has flipped a few votes from “yea” to “nay” on industrial hemp. This was done either by convincing lawmakers or in one case, hand-picking an opponent to the bill.
In a statement to KELOLAND News, newly appointed Sen. Helene Duhamel (R-Rapid City) said she will break from her predecessor and vote against expected industrial hemp legislation.
“I stand with law enforcement in opposition to hemp. Law enforcement officers have difficulty distinguishing between hemp and marijuana. Many pro-marijuana advocates promote it is a step towards legalized marijuana, which is often a gateway drug to other highly addictive, destructive and illegal drugs,” Duhamel said.
Sen. Alan Solano, who previously resigned, voted for the bill and to override Noem’s veto.
Duhamel, a longtime former news anchor, is now the public information officer for the Pennington County Sherriff’s Office. Noem has said law enforcement is against the bi-partisan measures to legalize hemp.
Duhamel is one of seven lawmakers appointed by Noem to the South Dakota legislature; two have yet to be named.
Throughout 2019, Noem has stated that she remains against industrial hemp and will veto if another bill comes forward in the 2020 session. In 2019, lawmakers narrowly avoided overturning the first-term governor’s veto.
Rep. Fred Deutsch (R-Florence) voted for the 2019 hemp bill, but against attempts to override Noem’s veto. For 2020, he plans to vote against the bill altogether.
“The only thing that matters to me is the opinion of the people I represent,” Deutsch said. “Respectfully, in deciding how to vote the position of the governor is a lower priority than the people I represent from District 4 in (northeast) South Dakota.”
Deutsch represented heavy agriculture communities. He said he has been reaching out to farmers and law enforcement in the four counties he represents.
“Frankly, the response from farmers has been underwhelming,” Deutsch said. “No one seems to care. Responses have ranged from, ‘There’s no market,’ to ‘Why would I put a noxious weed on my land?’ Responses from law enforcement have been 100% against. To sum it up, it’s hard for me to get passionate about Hemp.”
Deutsch tells KELOLAND News that he plans to vote against the measures unless he hears from people in his district that they changed their minds.
Rep. Nancy York (R-Watertown) is in a similar position. She too voted for the first bill and against overriding the veto. For 2020, she is against the hemp bill, but undecided on overriding the veto.
“That’s what makes it difficult,” York said. “Don’t pass a medicinal product.”
Otherwise, lawmakers are staying the course from 2019 or are undecided. Many we talked to said they need to see the exact provisions in the bill to decide.
KELOLAND News Survey
KELOLAND News reached out to all 35 members of the South Dakota Senate and 70 members of the South Dakota House. We asked three questions:
- If the approval of industrial hemp comes forward in the 2020 legislative session, based on the summer 2019 Industrial Hemp Study, how will you vote? (Yes, no or undecided)
- If Gov. Kristi Noem vetoes an industrial hemp proposal, will you vote to override her veto? (Yes, no or undecided)
- Is there anything else we should know or comments you would like to add? (Open space for lawmakers to add their rational).
37 members of the House and 15 members of the Senate, including two vacant positions, didn’t reply or refused to fill out our survey.
Earlier this month, lawmakers finished a six-page draft legislation that would allow producing, transporting and processing of hemp in the state, if the THC level was .03% or less.
The draft legislation will include an emergency clause to allow the law to take effect immediately. That will require a two-thirds majority in each chamber, the same number of lawmakers to override a veto.
This comes as the U.S. Department of Agriculture has released rules for people to grow hemp in all states except South Dakota, Idaho, Alabama and Washington. D.C.
Tribal land isn’t subject to South Dakota’s ban on hemp. The Flandreau Santee Sioux, Oglala Sioux and Yankton Sioux tribes all have submitted plans to the USDA. Two are under review, and Yankton Sioux Tribe is still drafting a plan.
“Conversations around hemp will continue, and I will continue to make the case that legalizing hemp will legalize marijuana by default,” Noem said in a November statement that was released after USDA rules were released.
If lawmakers fail to get two-thirds majority
If lawmakers fail to get through an industrial hemp plan, Sen. Reynold Nesiba (D-Sioux Falls) has another bill ready to go.
“I plan to have a bill that would allow the legislature to put the hemp bill on the 2020 ballot that would simply require a majority of the House and Senate to pass. I will bring this up if we fail to override the governor’s veto,” Nesiba said.
Yeas needed for two-thirds majority
Rep. Tim Goodwin (R-Rapid City) also wants to send the issue to voters. He plans to vote for the hemp bill, but remains undecided on overriding Noem, if needed.
Rep. Julie Frye-Mueller (R-Rapid City) agrees. She was a supporter of the bill in the 2019 session, but said she likes Goodwin’s idea.
“Let the citizens of our state decide,” Frye-Mueller said. “If this is an important issue to them, they must vote to let their voices be heard.”
In the last meeting of the committee tacking the bill for the 2020 session, Rep. Lee Qualm (R-Platte) disagreed with one of Noem’s main arguments: that this will open the path to recreational marijuana.
“I don’t think anybody on this committee wants recreational (marijuana) passed,” Qualm said.
Qualm will be the lead sponsor for the 2020 bill.
Below is the detailed breakdown of how lawmakers answered our survey questions. If we receive any changes or additions, we will update this. To find out who your senator and representatives are, we have also included a map.