The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe announced Friday that it has received clearance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to begin growing industrial hemp.
The approval grants the tribe regulatory authority over hemp production within the tribe’s jurisdiction.
“USDA shares your enthusiasm for your domestic hemp production program, and we look forward to working with you,” wrote Sonia Jimenez, USDA’s deputy administrator for specialty crops.
The approval means that the tribe is the first in South Dakota with an authorized plan and one of the first tribes or states in the nation with an approved plan, according to USDA. The Oglala Sioux Tribe currently has a plan that is under review by USDA.
In its announcement, the tribe says that growing hemp will enable it to expand its agricultural activities.
“The tribe is confident that this plant is not only an incredible economic opportunity because of its vast product offerings, but is also native to this area, and beneficial to the environment,” the announcement says.
Seth Pearman, the tribe’s attorney general, said the tribe will begin growing next season as well as use an indoor facility.
Hemp is a type of cannabis plant, but unlike marijuana, it does not contain enough psychoactive compound known as THC to have an intoxicating effect. It was cultivated for rope and other products during World War II, but fell victim to federal and state drug laws that included industrial hemp with marijuana.
Last year, Congress legalized hemp. Supporters say hemp can be used in a number of products, including clothing, paper and in health aides.
Thirty-one states and 18 tribes have submitted plans to grow hemp. Those plans must include testing protocols to ensure the plants don’t exceed a certain threshold for THC. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem opposes legalizing hemp, arguing that it will be too difficult for law enforcement officers to tell the difference between hemp and marijuana, and that it will eventually lead to full marijuana legalization.
While Noem has been marshalling lawmakers to oppose efforts to legalize hemp, voters may have an opportunity to decide the issue next year if a proposed ballot measure is approved.