Did nepotism motivate Governor Kristi Noem to veto industrial hemp in South Dakota?

On Monday Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota vetoed a bill that would make industrial hemp production legal in the state.

The growing CBD market is providing an opportunity for American farmers to access a possibly lucrative source of income. With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill last December, it is now legal under federal law to grow hemp, defined in the farm bill as strains of cannabis sativa containing less than 0.3% THC.

It’s up to each state, however, to decide whether or not to allow hemp production inside its borders.

House Bill 1191 to “legalize the growth, production, and processing of industrial hemp and derivative products in the state” passed through South Dakota’s majority Republican House and Senate, with support not only from cannabis activists but also from the South Dakota Farmers’ Union. The House got a two thirds vote to override the governor’s veto, but the Senate did not.

In a written statement as well as a video with spooky music, Governor Noem cites one of the reasons for her veto was a lack of law enforcement preparation and resources. Police, she says, will be unable to tell the difference between high THC and low THC cannabis sativa crops.

Given the fact that Montana legalized industrial hemp, the San Francisco Chronicle asked the Montana Department of Justice about this issue. The response: “The Highway Patrol hasn’t come across any of those issues as of yet.”

Noem also pulls the “reefer madness” card, citing fears legalization of hemp will lead to recreational marijuana, and availability of CBD, a *gasp!* “drug that is unregulated, unapproved by the FDA, and it’s derived from cannabis”. First of all, this is not entirely true, as the FDA has approved marketing CBD as Epidiolex, a drug that treats epileptic seizures. And cultural knee-jerk to anything having to do with cannabis only serves two purposes: 1) Scare people over 80, and 2) Put a fake argument in place to cover up ulterior motives.

Perhaps her ulterior motives are revealed at 0:38 in the video as she discusses the lack of “federal guidelines” for hemp. “Without those federal guidelines, farmers won’t be able to know if a market’s available to them. They won’t have insurance available.”

While this isn’t a very strong argument in favor of keeping it illegal for farmers to decide for themselves whether to take risks associated with growing hemp, or to begin testing the crop in their fields to grow for production in the future, she is correct that hemp is not currently an insurable crop. Farmers who decide to grow hemp will not be able to purchase insurance. If a farmer who has 100 acres of insured corn decides to convert that acreage into hemp, an insurance company would be unable to sell the farmer insurance on those 100 acres.

Guess who happens to sell crop insurance to farmers in South Dakota? None other than Bryon Noem, Governor Kristi Noem’s husband.

Dakota Free Press, a South Dakota blog, quotes one of its commenters, Rorschach:

Noem’s husband sells federally subsidized crop insurance. There is no federally subsidized crop insurance on hemp. If farmers switch acreage to hemp, there will be less acreage for Noem’s husband to cover with insurance. Hemp will adversely affect the Noem family’s personal bottom line.

The blog goes on to link to two other articles showing instances of Governor Noem’s nepotism, including promoting her son-in-law to a position in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and hiring her fresh-out-of-college daughter as a policy analyst making $50K a year. Outrage from citizens over this appointment prompted the South Dakota Senate to introduce an anti-nepotism bill in January 2018.

We’ll continue to follow the industrial hemp issue in every state. We’ll see if anything changes should hemp become insurable, thus profitable for South Dakota’s First Gentleman.

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