I see South Dakotans Against Prohibition plan to disrupt the South Dakota State Fair with a protest parade in favor of medical marijuana and industrial hemp. Organizer Cody Gardner of Huron says he has 150 protesters ready to march and thinks he can get a full 1,000 to take over Third Street, the main city street that bisects the fairgrounds.

Protesters plan to cheer for Independent Mike Myers at the State Fair gubernatorial debate on Friday, then march east on Third Street to Dakota Avenue with most if not all of the Libertarian statewide candidates. They say it will take them 30 minutes to march those eight blocks... which makes me think part of the failure of the pro-hempers and Libertarians is an inability to get their rears in gear. (I hear pot does that to people.)

Another potential failure of the Libertarian-hemp movement: the inability to recognize good marketing synergy. They stage their march when everyone's at work on Friday morning, a slower day at the Fair with all those plain old candidates. They miss the chance to march on Saturday, when they could synergize with grandstand entertainer Stoney LaRue. Marketing, fellas... marketing.

p.s.: I support keeping government out of medical decisions. I also support growing hemp to boost South Dakota's economy and improve our soil and water quality. I have yet to see any South Dakota Libertarians capable of organizing an effective movement toward those policies.

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Independent gubernatorial candidate Mike Myers is all about hemp. His advocacy for industrial hemp and his consumption of hemp dietary supplements earn derision from my opportunist-conservative counterpart in the blogosphere.

But if backing hemp makes a candidate crazy, then bring out the straitjackets for 87% of the South Dakota House. On Thursday, 61 of our 70 state representatives approved House Concurrent Resolution 1017, which in true conservative fashion exhorts Uncle Sam to get off our backs and let us grow non-intoxicating hemp, the way folks do quite legally in Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany, Romania, Australia, and the world's leading hemp producer, China.

HCR 1017 doesn't take the direct action the Madville Times community proposed in January, but it makes Myers backer Tara Volesky's point that promoting industrial hemp is not some politically suicidal fringe idea. The ayes included gubernatorial candidate Rep. Susan Wismer, U.S. Senate candidate Stace Nelson, and nine of the ten reps who have already filed for re-election.

In news from the generation gap, Rep. Don Haggar voted for legalizing industrial hemp, while his daughter Rep. Jenna Haggar voted against it. Maybe she needs to go undercover-shopping at the dietary supplements store with her good friend and co-scholar Rep. Isaac Latterell: he voted for HCR 1017.

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Rep. Isaac Laterrell is asking online constituents to give him input on do-nothing resolutions so he can spend his time in Pierre grandstanding about talk-radio issues. Big hairy deal. The Madville Times Legislative Project asked you, dear readers, for ideas for practical legislation to deal with practical South Dakota issues. And you've come through! Thank you!

So, as promised, here is the first draft of Madville Times Bill 101, the first of five legislative proposals from the many you have submitted to this blog over the last several days. I'll post the other four as the day progresses. Use the comment section to offer your input, seek clarification, propose amendments, or to tell us that we're all generally full of it. By next Friday, January 10, I'll send all five bills, in amended form to reflect your best ideas, to the South Dakota Legislature's leadership and to my District 8 Senator and Representatives. Onward, democracy!

Madville Times Bill 101

FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to legalize and promote the cultivation of industrial hemp and the production of industrial hemp-based goods in South Dakota.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA:

Section 1. Industrial hemp, cannabis sativa, is exempted from all state laws restricting the cultivation, distribution, possession, and use of marijuana and other controlled substances.

Section 2: Hemp production credit: County auditors shall reduce the property tax assessment on agricultural land by three dollars per acre in any year in which that land is used for the production of industrial hemp. County auditors shall apply the hemp production credit only to land used in active crop production as of January 1, 2014.

Section 3: The state will remit to each county the amount disbursed in the hemp production credit with funds from the Governor's Future Fund.

Section 4: In each fiscal year, the Governor shall disburse no other funds from the Future Fund until all hemp production credit remittances have been paid to each county.

Section 5: Ethanol and other biofuel plants shall pay a two-cent production tax on every gallon of biofuel produced. Biofuel produced from hemp shall be exempt from this production tax.

Section 6: By July 1, 2018, 50% of the raw materials used by Pheasantland Industries shall consist of industrial hemp produced in South Dakota.

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Holy happy-weed! Kristi Noem voted for hemp!

Larry Kurtz can be hard to love, but he points out this very interesting fact about the GOP farm bill that squeaked out of the House yesterday: it includes a Democratic amendment to promote research on industrial hemp!

Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO), Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) passed an amendment to H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, the FARRM bill, that would allow colleges and universities to grow and cultivate industrial hemp in states where it is already legal without fear of federal interference. The FARRM bill had previously failed, but was taken up again and passed the House of Representatives today with a vote of 216 to 208.

“Although I strongly opposed the Republican FARRM bill, I was pleased to see that the bipartisan amendment that I offered with Representatives Blumenauer and Massie was included in the final bill that passed the House of Representatives today,” said Rep. Polis. “This commonsense amendment will allow colleges and universities to grow and cultivate industrial hemp for academic and agricultural research purposes in states where industrial hemp growth and cultivation is already legal. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to ensure that this language becomes law.”

“This amendment is a small but fundamental change in the laws that hopefully will one day allow Kentucky farmers to grow industrial hemp again,” said Rep. Massie. “It’s our goal that the research this amendment enables would further broadcast the economic benefits of the sustainable and job-creating crop. I look forward to working with Rep. Polis and Rep. Blumenauer on this issue.”

"I'm disappointed by the Farm Bill as a whole, but glad to see the restrictions on hemp eased," said Blumenauer. “Our fear of industrial hemp is misplaced – it is not a drug. By allowing colleges and universities to cultivate hemp for research, Congress sends a signal that we are ready to examine hemp in a different and more appropriate context” [office of Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colorado), press release, 2013.07.11].

Noem for Hemp—there's another part of this awful farm bill that Noem didn't mention. (Think of all the crop insurance Bryon could sell to hemp growers! Think expanding markets, Kristi!) The South Dakota Farmers Union endorsed industrial hemp a dozen years ago in the run up to a statewide vote on legalizing hemp (which failed 38% to 62%).

Boosting research on industrial hemp is one of the few redeeming parts of this GOP political ploy. But stay tuned for the GOP press to start lynching Noem over her support for hemp, an economically and environmentally beneficial crop for which Pat Powers only sees one good use.

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In another strange twist of events, I find myself sympathizing with Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. The Republican Minority Leader tried but failed yesterday to get the fast-tracked Farm Bill to legalize industrial hemp. McConnell has strong support from back home, most notably from Kentucky's new Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, whose efforts have gotten even House Speaker John Boehner to say he backs letting farmers grow hemp.

And why the heck shouldn't we?

Comer risked ridicule by campaigning on an issue that many lampooned and few of his constituents understood. But he stubbornly embarked on a statewide educational campaign with a simple, irrefutable message: hemp is not marijuana.

Indeed, the cousin crops are quite distinguishable, both in their appearance and how they are cultivated agriculturally. Most pertinently, industrial hemp has less than 1 percent the psychoactive THC, compared with the 5 to 20 percent THC content of recreational pot. Moreover, unlike marijuana, hemp could emerge as a prolific cash crop with more than 25,000 uses, including for rope, food, clothing, horse bedding, automotive paneling, and door installation—even clean-burning alternative fuels [Jonathan Miller, "Inside the Movement to Legalize Hemp," The Daily Beast, 2013.05.14].

Comer's successful effort to pass hemp legislation in Kentucky is an excellent example of facts and bipartisan pragmatism beating back knee-jerk ignorance and fear.

Legalizing industrial hemp should be an easy call for all sides. We remove unnecessary regulation. We expand opportunities for farmers. We let American farmers enter a lucrative marketplace already tapped by numerous other countries. And we expand the crops available for rotation to improve soil quality.

Whatever else the Farm Bill includes (good: conservation requirements; bad: cuts to food stamps), let's see if we can put industrial hemp back in.

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