A Minnesota hemp delivery driver has been charged with possession of marijuana after transporting a load of hemp through South Dakota.
The Minnesota Hemp Association is calling out South Dakota for violating the 2018 Farm Bill by arresting the driver. The case highlights the need for consistent state laws regarding hemp cultivation, transportation, processing and selling, according to association Executive Director Joe Radinovich, a former Minnesota legislator.
“A Minnesota Hemp Association member expected a shipment of legally grown hemp. Instead, their driver was arrested and their hemp was confiscated in a state that isn’t complying with the Farm Bill and allowing hemp to be transported,” Radinovich said.
The 2018 Farm Bill federally legalized industrial hemp, but South Dakota legislators failed to override Gov. Kristi Noem’s veto of the bill legalizing hemp in the state this year. The Office of the General Counsel at the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a memo in May concluding that states can’t prohibit interstate transportation or shipment of hemp that was legally produced.
The driver, contracted by a hemp extractor company in Minneapolis, was pulled over on an interstate in South Dakota on July 16 for exceeding the posted speed limit. The driver was delivering a shipment of 300 pounds of non-intoxicating hemp from Denver to the processor in Minnesota and the value of the unprocessed hemp seized by South Dakota law enforcement was $22,500, according to the Minnesota Hemp Association.
The driver was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana and possession with intent to distribute. The driver has been released and is awaiting the next steps in the legal process, but the current total in product loss and legal fees is more than $36,000, which has been borne by the Minnesota extractor company, according to the Minnesota Hemp Association.
Forty-seven states have legalized hemp so far and a committee of South Dakota legislators are currently studying the industrial hemp issue in preparation for the 2020 session. In their second meeting on Monday, legislators called out state agency leaders for their lack of research on the topic. Noem vetoed the industrial hemp bill in March, saying the state isn’t ready for it yet and that legalized industrial hemp would open the door for legalized marijuana in the state. That argument was echoed again on Monday by Public Safety Secretary Craig Price.
Noem released a statement ahead of Monday’s meeting that she’s urging legislators to consider the unknowns about industrial hemp because there are still more questions than answers. She said she would be “thrilled” to introduce a new crop that could bolster markets and support producers, but industrial hemp “is surrounded by many question marks. It could be reckless to introduce a product that has serious implications on the health and safety of the next generation.”