South Dakota Hemp Overview

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What Is Hemp?

Hemp is one of the common varieties of Cannabis sativa, a cannabinoid-rich plant with physical and chemical similarities to marijuana, another strain of the plant. However, unlike marijuana plants, hemp does not produce a ''high'' when consumed because it contains trace amounts of THC, a cannabinoid with psychoactive properties. Hemp is also called industrial hemp. However, the term ''hemp'' is commonly used when referring to a cannabis plant grown for flowers. When hemp is grown primarily for fiber, it is called ''industrial hemp.''

Hemp plants are often mistaken for marijuana plants because of their physical similarities. However, marijuana leaves are broad and densely clustered on the plant stalks. On the other hand, hemp leaves are slender, fewer, and usually clustered on top of the plants. Also, unlike hemp plants that can grow up to four meters tall, marijuana plants do not grow tall. They usually have a shrubby appearance. 

Various parts of hemp plants are believed to have nutritional and medical value. Therefore, they are used to make products for human consumption. For example, hemp flowers, the unprocessed buds of hemp plants, are often used by consumers who desire the relaxing properties of its cannabidiol (CBD) content. Although it may be ingested, hemp flower is usually smoked to allow its calming effects to set in quicker. It is sometimes recommended as a treatment for anxiety and depression. 

Hemp seeds, the oval-shaped brown seeds of hemp plants, are often consumed for their nutritional benefits. They are rich in manganese, zinc, vitamin E, iron, omega-3, and omega-6 fatty acids. Because of their healthy cholesterol levels, hemp seeds are considered beneficial for the human circulatory system. Hemp seeds may be ingested raw or cooked before eating. However, because of the hard shells that sometimes get stuck in the teeth, hemp seeds are rarely eaten raw. Usually, hemp seeds are de-shelled to get the softer interior known as hemp hearts. Unlike hemp seeds, hemp hearts are more attractive for consumption. Hemp hearts and seeds do contain CBD or THC. 

Hemp milk is another product of hemp seeds. It is commonly used by vegans and people with milk allergies as an alternative to dairy milk. Like raw hemp seeds, hemp milk is rich in fat, protein, and minerals. In addition, hemp oil can be gotten from hemp seeds through cold pressing. It is often used as a natural pain reliever because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Hemp oil may be applied topically as a massage oil or taken orally. 

Hemp extract is also a hemp plant derivative. It is a concentrated liquid obtained from the flowers, stalks, leaves, and seeds of hemp plants. Although hemp extracts usually contain various chemical compounds such as cannabinoids and terpenes, they are sometimes separated into constituent compounds such as CBD and THC.   

Is Hemp Legal in South Dakota?

Yes. Before South Dakota legalized hemp, the plant and its derivatives were illegal in the United States for decades. However, the status of hemp changed in the country when President Barack Obama signed the 2014 Farm Bill (the Agricultural Act of 2014) into law on February 7, 2014. This Bill legalized the cultivation and marketing of hemp containing a maximum THC content of 0.3% for research purposes under state-run agricultural pilot programs. Only states' agriculture departments and higher education institutions could cultivate hemp plants under the pilot programs. On December 20, 2018, President Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill (Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018), which legalized hemp production as an agricultural commodity in the United States. This Bill defined hemp as distinct from marijuana and removed it from its Schedule I status under the Controlled Substances Act. Consequently, it became legal to use, produce, and transport hemp plants and products (that do not contain over 0.3% of THC) in the country.    

The 2018 Farm Bill designated the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as the agency with regulatory authority over hemp production federally. States needed to develop their hemp production plans and submit them to the United States Secretary of Agriculture for approval before they could regulate hemp production in their jurisdictions. In 2020, South Dakota responded to this federal requirement by approving its first hemp law - House Bill 1008, contained in Chapter 38.35 of the South Dakota Codified Laws.  

It is illegal to grow or process hemp plants in South Dakota without a hemp license from the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR). According to Section 38.35.2 of the South Dakota Codified Laws, persons caught growing or processing hemp plants in the state without a license risk facing civil or criminal penalties. Per Section 38.35.3 of the South Dakota Codified Laws, a hemp grower must have at least 0.5 acres of cultivation space. Also, they must grow a minimum of 300 hemp plants outdoors or 50 plants in a greenhouse.     

According to Section 38.35.17 of the South Dakota Codified Laws, it is legal to transport hemp plants within the state without a license. However, the transporters must have copies of the licenses under which the hemp plants in their possession were grown and lab reports proving that the plants comply with federal laws. This requirement also applies to hemp plants and products transported into South Dakota. 

What Hemp Products are Legal in South Dakota?

As stipulated in Chapter 38.35 of the South Dakota Codified Laws, hemp products containing a maximum THC concentration of 0.3% are legal in the state. South Dakota residents may sell and use hemp products such as topicals and edibles. However, Section 38.35.21 of the South Dakota Codified Laws prohibits the sale or use of smokable or inhalable hemp products in the state. Therefore, smoking hemp products in public spaces or while driving in South Dakota is illegal.   

Can A Municipality Restrict Hemp Cultivation or Processing in South Dakota?

South Dakota's hemp production plan does not permit county or city authorities to prohibit hemp cultivation or processing within their borders. However, per Section 38.35.3 of the South Dakota Codified Laws, the state's Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR) cannot independently decide to license hemp businesses in unincorporated municipalities. Individuals or business entities interested in growing or processing hemp plants within unincorporated municipalities must obtain approval from the municipal authorities. Such permissions will depend on whether the prospective hemp growers or processors meet all relevant municipal regulations.    

How to Get a License to Grow or Process Hemp in South Dakota

Hemp licenses are mandatory for prospective hemp growers or processors in South Dakota. The South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR) awards licenses to applicants who meet the requirements in the state's hemp production plan. The license types issued under South Dakota's hemp production plan are:

  • Research licenses: This type of license is issued to persons who intend to cultivate hemp plants for research purposes    
  • Grower licenses: This license type allows individuals and businesses to grow hemp plants for commercial purposes 
  • Processor licenses: These licenses allow businesses and individuals to obtain hemp plants from licensed growers and manufacture hemp products    

Individuals and business entities in South Dakota can hold both hemp grower and processor licenses at the same time. To  obtain hemp grower licenses under the South Dakota Industrial Hemp Program, applicants must submit to fingerprint-based criminal background checks by the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Afterward, each applicant should complete the industrial hemp license application form in the South Dakota State Hemp Plan, pay a non-refundable $50 application fee (via check), and attach the following documents:

  • A certificate of good standing from the South Dakota Secretary of State (SDSOS)
  • A letter from the municipal authority of the territory their proposed facility is situated (if it is within an unincorporated municipality) 
  • An area map of the proposed cultivation area 

A hemp grower license applicant in South Dakota should mail the completed application form and required documents to the DANR at:

Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Joe Foss Building 

530 East Capitol Avenue

Pierre, SD 57501-3182    

How Much Does a License to Grow or Process Hemp Cost in South Dakota?

As stated in South Dakota's hemp production plan, hemp grower license applicants must pay $50 application fees and $500 license fees to the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR). Hemp grower licenses and processor licenses are valid for 15 months. Therefore, hemp growers are required to pay $500 to the DANR when renewing their licenses. Furthermore, hemp processors in South Dakota must pay $50 application fees and $2,000 license fees to the DANR during their initial applications. A processor licensee will need to pay $2,000 for their license renewal.

How to Grow Hemp in South Dakota

To cultivate hemp plants in South Dakota, a licensed grower needs to purchase quality seeds. According to the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR), hemp seeds may be brought in from any other state or country, provided the seed variety does not contain over 0.3% THC. After obtaining the seeds, a hemp grower should prepare the soil in their growing area to ensure it has the right growing conditions. The ideal soil pH for hemp plants is between 6 and 8. Also, the soil should be well aerated to allow proper water drainage. 

Plant the seeds in about one to one and a half-inch-deep holes in the field, cover them lightly, and water regularly. Alternatively, a hemp grower can pre-soak hemp seeds in water for about 12 to 24 hours to enable them to germinate and plant them in small pots or planting trays. After about five to six weeks of thorough watering, the seedlings should be strong enough for transplanting to the field. Unlike marijuana plants that are widely spaced during planting (approximately two plants per 8 square feet), hemp plants are usually grown closely together (up to 100 plants per 8 square feet). South Dakota's hemp production plan does not provide specific guidance regarding pesticide use on hemp plants. However, Chapter 38.20A of the South Dakota Codified Laws stipulates that any pesticide used in the state must be registered with the DANR.

A South Dakota hemp grower licensee must complete a planting verification and harvest report form and submit it to the state's Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR) within 30 days of planting. Also, they must file a grower inspection sample request with the DANR when their hemp plants are almost ready to harvest. This request will enable the South Dakota Department of Public Safety (DPS) to collect samples of each hemp plant lot for testing 30 days before harvesting.             

Where Can You Buy Hemp Flower in South Dakota?

Hemp products and plant parts (including flowers) containing a maximum THC content of 0.3% are allowed under South Dakota's hemp production plan. However, in line with Section 38.35.21 of the South Dakota Codified Laws, the sale or use of smokable hemp flowers is illegal in the state. Therefore, businesses in South Dakota cannot sell smokable hemp flowers or ship them into the state. 

Hemp vs THC

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is a psychoactive cannabinoid that occurs naturally in hemp and marijuana plants. However, hemp plants only contain trace amounts of THC, while marijuana plants contain higher levels of the compound. Under federal law (the 2018 Farm Bill), hemp plants with a maximum THC concentration of 0.3% are legal. Furthermore, as stipulated in Chapter 38.35 of the South Dakota Codified Laws, hemp-derived THC products that do not contain over 0.3% THC may be sold or purchased in the state.

Hemp vs CBD

CBD (cannabinol) is one of the cannabinoids found in hemp and marijuana plants. Hemp plants contain higher levels of CBD than marijuana plants. Since hemp and hemp-derived products are legal under South Dakota's hemp production plan, CBD products derived from hemp plants may be purchased or sold in the state. 

Hemp Applications

Besides their medicinal benefits, hemp plants have various industrial and commercial applications. Some industries that use hemp plants are as follows:

  • Textile industry: Industrial hemp fibers are one of the strongest natural fibers for textile production. It is warmer, more absorbent, and more durable than cotton and other fiber-based fabrics. Hemp fiber is versatile and can be combined with other fabrics like flax, cotton, and silk to make clothes, furniture fabrics, carpets, headgears, shoes, and drapes
  • Human and animal food industry: Hemp seeds are highly nutritious. They may be used to manufacture beverages, pastries, or cooking oils. Furthermore, hemp fiber, seed, and oil can be used to produce animal feed 
  • Automotive industry: Hemp-based bioplastic is lighter than steel and glass fiber. Therefore when used to manufacture cars, it can result in less fuel consumption and better propulsion. Hemp plastics on car bodies are more resistant to dents and bumps. Furthermore, hemp biofuel is a more environmentally friendly option than diesel. When used in engines, it gives off less soot and does not produce harmful chemical compounds 
  • Construction industry: Industrial hemp fibers may be used to manufacture insulating plaster for building floors, walls, and ceilings. Also, hemp planks are a clean and recyclable alternative to conventional wooden planks used in the construction industry. The texture of hemp planks makes them easier to assemble and more adaptable to any type of construction           
South Dakota Hemp Overview