Most of what I know about hemp, industrial or otherwise, I know because a pump-bottle of hemp moisturizing lotion sits on the counter in our bathroom.
I used the stuff once on my sunburned forearms. It worked great, although it had a distinctive aroma. I had visions of a drug dog “alerting’’ to the odor if I went out in public.
Other than that, what I knew about hemp before last year’s legislative debate over legalizing the industrial version of the stuff came from my reporting days. A guy down in southwest South Dakota used to grow hemp. He said it would be a fine cash crop. The federal drug folks said it was illegal. They raided the guy’s place and destroyed the crop. That’s how I recall it, anyway.
Apparently, industrial hemp lacks whatever ingredient makes marijuana a potent — and still illegal — cash crop. Many people say hemp has potential in agriculture.
South Dakota legislators passed an industrial hemp bill last session. Gov. Kristi Noem vetoed it. I hear she may be a bit more open to the idea now. I read recently that she unveiled a set of restrictions — which she called guardrails — any law would have to include to stand a chance with her. I also heard last year’s bill included many of those guardrails. A reasonable person might think the sides aren’t far apart. In my experience, “aren’t far apart’’ in legislative terms can mean an inch or a mile. I wouldn’t get the planter ready for the field yet — not even if I could pull a planter into one of South Dakota’s soggy farm fields.
I’ll probably follow the hemp debate, but it doesn’t seem as exciting as that time in the 1970s when the Legislature voted to make possession of marijuana a petty offense with a $20 fine. That heady (see what I did there?) issue arose during a revision of the state’s criminal code. It was a time when a fair number of people were using or had used pot and a larger number didn’t think marijuana was so bad, whether they used it or not. Folks were pretty mellow, in other words. The criminal code revision decriminalized small amounts of marijuana. A friend said me had a $20 bill in his shirt pocket right next to a doobie. He was just waiting for the law to change to light up in public.
Alas for my friend, the Legislature changed its mind. They had voted for decriminalization with a delayed implementation date. Before that date arrived, they had second thoughts and reversed themselves.
Even if the $20 fine had taken effect, it wouldn’t have helped the guys who flew a DC-7 loaded with 25,000 pounds of baled marijuana to a drop site near Akaska up by Mobridge. That happened on Super Bowl Sunday in 1980. Four decades later, that remains the most interesting stack of bales I’ve ever seen. I helped my cousin load hay bales onto a semi to haul from Lyman County out to a farm near Custer once, but not a single one of the bales I hefted held my interest at all.
The guys on the plane? Well, they were caught holding a felony weight of an illegal substance. The marijuana itself was hauled back to Pierre and stashed in a place out east of town. The officer in charge allowed a few tours of the stacked haul, and a couple of the bales of weed were broken open so visitors could gawk at all of those drugs. I was told that one older visitor took a small handful of the stuff and was about to stick it in his pocket when a law officer stopped him. The guy looked sheepish and said he was just going to take it home to show his spouse. Neither of them had ever seen pot except in a picture.
Law officers eventually burned the marijuana at the Pierre landfill, amid many jokes about nearby geese getting too stoned to fly off into the fields to feed. My friend with the $20? He told me he was going to stand downwind of the burn area. He was kidding — I think.