Gage Skidmore

South Dakota Gov. Pens Anti-Hemp Legalization Op-Ed

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has come out against the legalization of hemp, citing primarily law enforcement concerns that legal hemp complicates cannabis enforcement.

Full story after the jump.

In an op-ed in the Argus Leader, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) is discouraging the legalization of hemp in the state, arguing that legalizing the crop “legalizes marijuana by default.”

Noem cites the experience of other states, such as Texas and Ohio, where some officials have indicated they would not prosecute cannabis cases because high-THC cannabis looks like its non-psychoactive cousin and the agencies don’t have the testing capability for THC levels. The governor noted that a few months ago, a South Dakota Highway Patrol officer showed the Legislature that a drug-sniffing dog alerted the same way to both hemp and THC-rich cannabis.

“South Dakota must lead by example. We cannot rush into legalizing industrial hemp without knowing the cost we will pay. The safety and health of the next generation is not worth the gamble.” – Noem, in an Argus Leader op-ed

Noem said that the state’s Secretary of Public Safety, Craig Price, is also against hemp legalization after witnessing the experiences of other states.

“Law enforcement is already stretched thin in our state, and legalizing hemp would stress our resources even further,” Price said last week, according to Noem. “It would have a negative impact on our drug fighting efforts in South Dakota.”

Noem contends that legalizing hemp “weakens drug laws” and “hurts law enforcement.”

“It’s a step backward. South Dakota already faces a drug problem. Families continue to be ripped apart by substance abuse,” Noem writes. “I realize this position might not be popular, but that’s not why I’m taking it. As a governor who has said I will make every decision with the next generation in mind, I cannot sit by.”

Last year, hemp was legalized federally via the Farm Bill which removed the crop from the Controlled Substances Act. Since that action, several states have passed their own hemp laws which still need U.S. Department of Agriculture approval before moving from ‘pilot’ to permanent.

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