South Dakota Senate Passes Strict Ban On Delta-8 THC And Other Intoxicating Hemp Products

“We always want to tout that our state is open for business, until we don’t like that business.”

By John Hult, South Dakota Searchlight

The state Senate has voted to pass the original, stricter version of a ban on the widely available, hemp-derived “diet weed” products that induce highs similar to marijuana.

House Bill 1125 had originally targeted a wide swath of products. The gummies, vape pens, pre-rolled joints and smokable flowers can be produced using high concentrations of the psychoactive chemicals present in minuscule amounts in industrial hemp, or using synthetically derived versions of those same chemicals.

The chemical concoctions are an unexpected outgrowth of the legalization of industrial hemp at the federal level. The federal legality of the natural intoxicants made the use of them in large concentrations legal by extension, though there have been questions raised by the Drug Enforcement Administration about the legality of the lab-grown versions.

HB 1125 flip-flopped between which kinds of products would be covered as it moved through the lawmaking process.

Rep. Brian Mulder, R-Sioux Falls, moved his bill through the House Health and Human Services Committee in its original form, but saw it modified on the House floor to target only products made from the lab-grown chemicals, which are sold under names like THC-O.

Rep. Oren Lesmeister, D-Parade, told his fellow representatives that a ban on products made with naturally occurring chemicals would hurt small business owners and hemp growers alike. Under that change, products sold under names like Delta-8 or Delta-10 THC would still be legal to sell.

The House passed Lesmeister’s amendment, then passed HB 1125 on a unanimous vote.

All that changed again in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee last week. Sen. Brent Hoffman, R-Sioux Falls, successfully proposed an amendment putting the language of the hoped-for ban right back where it was when Mulder introduced it.

Sen. Ryan Maher, R-Isabel, tried to move the Lesmeister amendment on the Senate floor on Monday, though he saw none of Lesmeister’s success.

The ban could result in a flood of products on South Dakota streets this spring as retailers move to clear their soon-to-be illegal inventory, Maher said. He also pointed to the easy accessibility of Delta-8 products online, and to the investments made by smoke shop owners who’ve invested in the state.

“We always want to tout that our state is open for business, until we don’t like that business,” Maher said.

Maher’s amendment failed. Sen. Erin Tobin, R-Winner, echoed several of the amendment’s other opponents with her remarks.

“If you think you should be able to walk into a gas station and buy a psychoactive product in a state that doesn’t have recreational marijuana, I would say go ahead and vote for this amendment,” Tobin said.

Moments after Maher’s amendment failed on a voice vote, the Isabel senator cast the only vote against HB 1125.

It will now move to a conference committee to reconcile it with the version passed by the House.

This story was first published by South Dakota Searchlight.

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Photo courtesy of Kimberly Lawson.

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