As a farmer and rancher, I would be thrilled to get a new crop into the hands of our producers, especially as our ag markets struggle. A new source of revenue for farmers would be great. But industrial hemp is not the answer.

Legalizing industrial hemp legalizes marijuana by default. I asked my cabinet and other experts in state government to see what other states are doing on hemp and how they are implementing their laws. But what they’ve come back with is example after example of drug laws becoming murky and unenforceable.

Across the country, states are dealing with issues surrounding the enforcement of marijuana laws because hemp and marijuana look the same and smell the same. Police officers are unable to distinguish between hemp and marijuana on the road, essentially legalizing marijuana.

Proponents in Texas told legislators that legalizing hemp would not decriminalize marijuana. Yet with Texas’s new industrial hemp law now on the books, prosecutors have dropped hundreds of marijuana cases and have stopped accepting new cases until much more detailed testing is done. In Ohio, a law enforcement official said this to WBNS, a local news station: “We have to be able to distinguish between hemp and marijuana. That is not possible for a human being to do, that has to be done through crime analysis.”

Without additional equipment costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, many crime labs can only detect the presence of THC — not the level of it — for crime analysis purposes. A full crime analysis from an outside lab can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars per test, a price tag too steep for local law enforcement agencies who oftentimes have to wait weeks before receiving test results.

A recent NBC News article reiterated this message. “With the passage of new hemp-legalization laws over the past eight months, crime labs across the country have suddenly found themselves unable to prove that a leafy green plant taken from someone’s car is marijuana, rather than hemp.” Without the ability to test the level of THC in a plant, the NBC report says, labs can’t provide useful scientific evidence for use in court. Any suspected marijuana case would require this expensive and time-consuming testing. Prosecutors will quickly get overwhelmed, and as we’ve seen in other states, they begin dropping charges or avoiding new cases altogether.

Last week, my Secretary of Public Safety, Craig Price, said that “the more we study this issue, the more concerns I have for the impact on public safety. Law enforcement is already stretched thin in our state, and legalizing hemp would stress our resources even further. It would have a negative impact on our drug fighting efforts in South Dakota.”

We’ve seen this firsthand. A few months ago, a South Dakota Highway Patrol officer showed the Legislature that a drug dog alerted the same way to both hemp and marijuana. If drug dogs and roadside tests are unable to decide between hemp and marijuana, our best assets to cracking down on illegal drugs are invalid. We’ll be legalizing marijuana by default.

That’s what it boils down to. Legalizing industrial hemp weakens drug laws. It hurts law enforcement. It’s a step backward. South Dakota already faces a drug problem. Families continue to be ripped apart by substance abuse. 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.

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.

(6) comments


hemp and marijuana should both be legal


Agree, Iman. Agree.


Industrial Hemp is the Answer (to many of our socio-economical problems and a proactive way to lessen our carbon footprints on the earth). The following article is from

Industrial Hemp: A Win-Win For The Economy And The Environment

Logan Yonavjak Contributor


Contributor Group


Logan Yonavjak (@Loganyon) makes a case for allowing farmers in the United States to grow hemp.

Industrial hemp was once a dominant crop on the American landscape. This hardy and renewable resource (one of the earliest domesticated plants known, with roots dating back to the Neolothic Age in China) was refined for various industrial applications, including paper, textiles, and cordage.

Over time, the use of industrial hemp has evolved into an even greater variety of products, including health foods, organic body care, clothing, construction materials, biofuels, plastic composites and more (according to one source, more than 25,000 products can be made from hemp).

In the U.S., the first hemp plantings were in Jamestown, Virginia, where growing hemp was actually mandatory. From then on hemp was used in everything from 19th century clipper ship sails to the covers of pioneer wagons. The Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper, and even the finest Bible paper today remains hemp-based.

Today In: Entrepreneurs

Industrial hemp being grown for fiber and grain in France. In the early 20th century, hemp-derived cellulose was promoted as an affordable and renewable raw material for plastics; Henry Ford even built a prototype car from biocomposite materials, using agricultural fiber such as hemp.

After that things started to go downhill. In 1937, the passage of “Marihuana Tax Act” occurred, and, despite the U.S. government's “Hemp for Victory” campaign during World War II, misplaced fears that industrial hemp is the same as marijuana combined with targeted harassment by law enforcement discouraged farmers from growing hemp. The last crop was grown in Wisconsin in 1958, and by 1970 the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) formally prohibited cultivation (although the state of Hawaii is home to the first industrial hemp crop to be cultivated since the passage of the CSA).

The Situation Today

Sustainable hemp seed, fiber and oil are still used in raw materials by major companies, including Ford Motors, Patagonia, and The Body Shop, to make a wide variety of products. However, most hemp product manufacturers are forced to import hemp seed, oil and fiber from growers in Canada, Europe, and China because American farmers are prohibited by law from growing this low-input sustainable crop.

In 2012 the U.S. hemp industry was valued at an estimated $500 million in annual retail sales and growing for all hemp products, according to the Hemp Industries Association, a non-profit trade organization consisting of hundreds of hemp businesses.

Not only can hemp be used for an astonishing number of products, its net environmental benefit is impressive. Among the more salient features, hemp grows in a variety of climates and soil types, is naturally resistant to most pests, and grows very tightly spaced allowing it to outcompete most weeds. A natural substitute for cotton and wood fiber, hemp can also be pulped using fewer chemicals than wood because of its low lignin content. Its natural brightness can obviate the need to use chlorine bleach.

Why is this incredible plant illegal?

Because it is erroneously confounded with marijuana, and many policymakers believe that by legalizing hemp they are legalizing marijuana, which is not true. Canada, Britain, France, Germany, and Spain, along with over twenty other countries, cultivate and process industrial hemp without affecting the enforcement of marijuana laws. (More common misperceptions about hemp and factual rebuttals.)

In fact, industrial hemp and marijuana are different breeds of Cannabis sativa; hemp has no value as a recreational drug. Actually smoking large amounts of hemp flowers can produce a significant headache, but not a high.

To delve further in the details, in most western countries industrial hemp is distinguished from marijuana on the basis of THC (the chief intoxicant in marijuana) content, which allows the growing of industrial hemp for fiber and seed. Regulations in the E.U. and Canada (31 countries currently grow industrial hemp) limit THC levels in hemp flowers to 0.2 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively, and prevent attempts to camouflage marijuana in hemp fields. Comparatively, THC levels in marijuana flowers are generally between 3 percent and 15 percent.

A hemp revival is beginning to gain momentum. Perception is beginning to shift in the U.S. Over the past several decades, there’s been a resurgence of interest in hemp by a diverse but increasingly politically influential and unified group of businesses, farmers, nutritionists, activists, and green consumers.

What has to occur is a change in the federal policy to essentially revise the definition of “marijuana” so that the term excludes industrial hemp, and then enact specified procedures and requirements relating to growing industrial hemp and those who cultivate industrial hemp.

“A change in federal policy to once again allow hemp farming would mean instant job creation, among many other economic and environmental benefits,” says Tom Murphy, the National Outreach Coordinator of Vote Hemp.

Current Federal and State Legislative Progress

The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013 (H.R. 525) was recently introduced in the House with 28 original co-sponsors, and it was quickly joined by a companion bill in the Senate (S. 359) which was introduced by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Rand Paul (R-KY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), underscoring the bipartisan support around the hemp issue.

If passed, the bills would remove federal restrictions on the domestic cultivation of industrial hemp, defined as the non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis. The full text of the bills, as well as status and co-sponsors, can be found online.

H.R. 525 is the fifth bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in support of industrial hemp farming since the federal government outlawed it in the U.S. in 1971.

At the state level, the first hemp bill was introduced in Colorado in 1995. To date, 31 states have introduced pro-hemp legislation and 19 have passed such legislation.

Eight states (Colorado, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia) have defined industrial hemp as distinct and removed barriers to its production;

Three states (Hawaii, Kentucky and Maryland) have passed bills creating commissions or authorizing hemp research;

Nine states (California, Colorado, Illinois, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Vermont and Virginia) have passed hemp resolutions; and,

Six states (Arkansas, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina and Vermont) have passed hemp study bills.

However, despite state authorization to grow hemp, farmers in those states still risk raids by federal agents, prison time, and property and civil asset forfeiture if they plant the crop due to the failure of federal policy to distinguish non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis (i.e., industrial hemp) from psychoactive drug varieties (i.e., "marihuana").

The Future of Hemp in the U.S.

Hemp is not a panacea for our social, economic, and environmental woes—no single crop can do that.

However, as we transition to a future that embraces more sustainable agriculture practices industrial hemp can help lead the way. With focused and sustained research and development, hemp could spur dramatic positive ecological and economic benefits. For instance, renewable, fast-growing hemp is a substitute for many unsustainable products like non-organic cotton (which currently uses more than 25 percent of the world’s insecticides and more than 10 percentof the world’s pesticides) and many plastic products.

In addition to supporting a federal policy change on industrial hemp, each of us can help grow the hemp marketplace by buying hemp products and also by staying informed and talking to our state and national representatives, and our friends and family, about the benefits of industrial hemp for the economy and the environment.


Logan Yonavjak is a freelance writer for, Ashoka Changemakers, and

The 4th Annual Hemp History Week will be held next week, June 3-9, 2013.

"Modern Uses of Industrial Hemp" chart via

Logan Yonavjak


Ashoka is the largest network of social entrepreneurs worldwide, with nearly 3,000 Fellows in 70 countries.


Anybody who has seen both hemp and marijuana can tell the difference. I would think that with minimal training the police could too. It seems to me that Krusty believes our cops aren't very smart.


If law enforcement is the concern, make it so that finding it in any form other than industrial, or finding it in the presence of drug paraphernalia makes it marijuana. That way truck loads of hemp being used to make clothing and other industrial goods can travel safely and we can still reap the economic benefits.


So your husband doesn't sell Hemp crop insurance and that is the real reason, we all know this. Why try and explain and spin this a different way? If law enforcement can't tell the difference then maybe they should find a more suitable career. Hemp becomes a legal crop and the Noem's lose money is what it boils down too.

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