Hemp in South Dakota, A History

In 2019 South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem vetoed a popular bill in South Dakota to legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp. At the time she famously said that South Dakota was “not ready.” But just over one hundred years ago, a South Dakota Governor would beg Washington and the private sector for help getting an emergency hemp industry started in the state. The Story of how hemp went from commodity, to odity, to war hero, to menace to children, to war hero again, to menace, to a cash crop of the future is next.

Although cannabis as a drug and industrial hemp both derive from the species Cannabis sativa and contain the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), they are distinct strains with unique phytochemical compositions and uses. Hemp has lower concentrations of THC and higher concentrations of cannabidiol (CBD), which decreases or eliminates its psychoactive effects. However, for the purposes of this story these two plants are going to often seem as though I’m talking about them interchangeably. Part of that is because while I’m calling this the history of hemp, it’s more the story of our cultural perceptions of this plant family, And throughout its history both plants have been so tightly associated, that whatever the legal and cultural fate is of one, impacts the other. Neither strain was native to North America, both arrived on the continent as a result of Columbian exchange, and the arrival of Europeans. [spanish guitar] Colonial capitalism and slave trade are responsible for the introduction of cannabis to the Americas. Once pipe smoking was adopted for cannabis consumption, the recreational use of cannabis became much more popular due to the nearly immediate psychoactive effects produced by inhaling weed. The Spanish, Portuguese, and British are responsible for introducing cannabis to the Americas. Portuguese slave traders trafficked cannabis-using Africans from Angola to Brazil. From there, cannabis use spread among poor laborers in the Amazon. Spanish colonists introduced cannabis to Colombia, Chile, and Mexico. British colonists trafficked Indian slaves to the Caribbean. These slaves used cannabis recreationally and spiritually, and this practice spread to Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad. In many cases, the recreational use of cannabis by slaves was encouraged—as long as marijuana consumption did not negatively impact labor. Slave owners encouraged the plant’s mood-enhancing and tranquilizing effects. In this way, cannabis became an effective tool for controlling and assuaging slave labor. While North American Indians were responsible for introducing tobacco to the British, British colonists were the ones who introduced cannabis to North American Indians. Although the British were aware of the psychotropic effects of smoking cannabis, they were far more interested in the economic versatility of industrial hemp. Hemp was such an important part of the British empire’s economy, Queen Elizabeth ordered that all landowners with 60 or more acres of land were required to grow hemp or pay a fine. Farmers in the early North American colonies were required to grow hemp including such notable figures as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. [native flute] It’s not clear when the Native peoples of The regions we now call the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska first started using these plants but we do know is the plants arrived well ahead of European pioneers themselves. Wide spread use of hemp in fishing nets and other materials is documented as well as cannabis being used in religious ceremonies and in medicine. In 1905 Albert Reagan, a botanist from the university of Kansas conducting a survey of plant life on Rosebud a Reservation makes notes of abundant wild hemp growing throughout the reservation. [steam ship noises] While growing hemp had been common for European farmers in colonial times, by the early 20th century american hemp production was on the decline. A farmer from Elk Point South Dakota named Carl Ringsurd traveled to the Philippines and described the plantations that combined with fiber production in the Yucatan region of Mexico, had driven down the price of hemp. In his letter to the Madison Daily Leader published on May 8th 1911 he described the situation as this: “The only drawback to raising hemp at the present time is the difficulty of securing labor and the poor market conditions. As a result the acreage of the crop is being reduced and other crops planted in its place. The cocoanut is face replacing hemp as a crop of first importance.” Stick a pin in his comment about the labor difficulty involved, that will come up later. Hemp also had a problem as it became associated with more than industrial and household items. On March 1st 1913 at Pine Ridge, The Indian Bureau published an announcement in a magazine published by the Indian Training School magazine called The Oglala Light. The massive headline read “Indians Must End Mescal Orgies.” The Bureau recommends to congress an end to all intoxicants on the Pine Ridge reservation. It contains an excerpt from the thier letter to the United State Senate: “The use of certain articles having injurious effects, among which may be mentioned cannabis indica, or indian hemp, opium, cocaine, and peyote, or the mescal been, has been growing among the Indians, and it is believed that legislation should be enacted prohibiting the sale of such articles to the Indians and the introduction of them into the indian country.” And with that, hemp and cannibus’s complex reputation in the Sioux Empire started to deveolp. It’s the first time a plant that grows wild in South Dakota will be declared an enemy of the state, but it definitely won’t be the last. [old farm machinery noises] Are you familiar with twine? If you didn’t grow up on a farm it's that ratty string that you’ll see holding together hay bales. It's important to farming for a variety of reasons. In 1916? It was really vital to the gathering of many different crops. The harvest of many of South Dakota’s most important crops depended on binder machines and these machines tied everything together with twine. Not having it could make farming impossible and cancel out the labor saving power of recently developed farm machinery. South Dakota farmers have a problem. With a World War destroying Europe, shipping being harassed by submarine warfare, and with deteriorating relations between the US and Mexico, the Yucktan supply of fiber for twine was failing. There was now a market domestically in the US for hemp again. But there were problems, first, there wasn’t enough hemp in the US to meet demand and it would take time to grow a supply. Second, remember that intensive labor problem we talked about in the Philippines in 1911? Part of why hemp hasn’t seen more production in the US is that it is massively labor intensive because effective machines for processing it don’t exist. Virtually all stages of hemp growing and processing in the US still relied on hand labor. The most basic breakthroughs in machine processing of hemp won’t happen until 1919. International Harvester sees an opportunity, and while they are working to develop the equipment, they start seeding and subsidising test plots all over the US to see where they can grow hemp most effectively. To be clear this isn’t altruism, for a while International Harvester had had a monopoly on the supply of twine and twine materials in the US but complex situations in Africa and Mexico are starting to erode that monopoly right as these experiments begin. Their first test plot in South Dakota was planted in Groton in 1916. In August of that year The Pierre Weekly Free Press estimated the Groton plot will bring a return of $130-$150 per acre. That's $2,604.00 - $3,004.62 in June 2020 dollars adjusted for inflation. A staggering amount considering International Harvester is providing most of the input cost minus labor. With that kind of money on the table more farmers start to take an interest. [1917 music] So, it's January 2nd 1917 and Governor Peter Norbeck of South Dakota is giving his inauguration speech. He thinks he has a solution to that labor problem. He proposes that research be done on having inmates in Sioux Falls be immediately put to work processing hemp to combat the twine shortage. Unfortunately for South Dakota Farmers, they are going to wish the proposal had come a lot sooner. In early April 1917, with the toll in sunken U.S. merchant ships and civilian casualties rising, Wilson asked Congress for “a war to end all wars” that would “make the world safe for democracy.” On April 6, 1917, Congress thus voted to declare war on Germany. [Play “Over There” clip] News in March of that year is grim and officials are already warning the state's farmers that there will be a terrible twine shortage. In 1917 almost everyone in South Dakota was a farmer and almost everything about farming back then required twine. Figures at the time said the state would need 16 million pounds of twine to make it through the year but state prisoner plant would only be able to produce 3 million pounds and a large chunk of the material the state had ordered for the inmates to process never even showed up. Things got heated as the frim in New Orleans that promised South Dakota fiber reneged on the deal as they got better offers. There was speculation in some papers that the elevators and larger operations had secured a sweetheart deal with the state and that the shortage only applied to the little farmers. Officials in charge of the prison twine program even banned selling the twine by the boxcar because of the perception it was creating that there was plenty for the rich who could buy in bulk. That same month International Harvester began to escalate their time table and more plots were planned for 1917. They bought 9 train car loads extra of hemp seed and some of that seed is sent to Vermillion where the company offers generous terms to farmers in the area to try growing the hemp. They offer to rent the land, share the crop, and guarantee the purchase of any hemp grown. Experts on the plants are hired and sent from Kentucky to instruct Vermillion farmers on the best techniques for hemp growing. Happy with the results they have seen in Groton the previous year that I mentioned, International also expands it’s hemp experiments in Brown County. A seeding expert from Grand Forks is brought in and he supervised the planting of 200 more acres than before near Bath. By the time planting began, there were also International Harvester plots in Ipswich and all around the north east of South Dakota. This is all good news for the future but crops take time to be grown and in the meantime South Dakota and it’s farmers suffer but it’s just one additional hardship in the sea of challenges that come as America mobilizes for war. Some good news comes in August, the hemp corp in Ipswich is a success. Like the Groton plot, the profits are extremely rewarding for the farmers. But in October more bad news for South Dakota twine. Warden Guy C. Redfield, reported that the United States Food Administration "practically took charge of all the sisal and manila hemp coming into this country." In October 1917, that agency called all twine manufacturers to Washington, D.C, for a conference and announced that it had created a new commission "to contract for and purchase raw material, and to fix the price which the manufacturers should charge for the manufactured product." The politics of the twine shortage are very complex but just know for our story, that it has become really hard to get what they used to make it out of. In November, W. H. King, a Mitchell Resident who was Secretary of the Board of Charities and Corrections and one of the main figures behind the State Penitentiaries hemp processing plant travels to New York. He’s on a good will tour for the State of South Dakota. He visits the camp where units composed of men from his own town of Mitchell are waiting for their turn for a ship to take them to the fighting in Europe. He has thanksgiving dinner with the troops and their commander in the camp. Over dinner the commander shares some scuttlebutt, implying that some of the men from South Dakota are already on ships and halfway across the Atlantic. King later relayed this information to newspaper readers back in Mitchell but he himself is not headed back just yet. He took a detour to Washington DC, possibly on behalf of the governor, to lobby officials there to help South Dakota find more twine and more hemp. Over the course of the next year local hemp production in South Dakota will expand and the Prison Hemp Processing Plant will start getting more supply. With future prospects for the crop growing in the state, George L Kemper created what might be the state’s first private hemp mill 9 miles east of Aberdeen in July of 1918. The process is still very labor intensive and it requires 9 men at a time to operate. While the great war ended in November of that year, the price of hemp continued to run high and many South Dakota farmers kept some in their crop rotation, especially because of the plants ability to choke out weeds. International Harvester was also still convinced that hemp was a viable cash crop and continued it’s subsidized test plot program to get more farmers to try the crop in the Aberdeen and Ipswich area, renewing the program again in 1919. In May of 1922 with the price of hemp still high and the first known test plots in Sully County were planted outside Agar. For this next part of our story, we’ll need to take a slight detour into the world of beets. Specifically sugar beets. [Saloon music] In 1904, Belle Fourche’s founder and chief booster, Seth Bullock (Yes that guy from Deadwood), boasted that a sugar beet factory would be very successful there and was feasible. It's better to process the beets closer to where they grow and the soil in the area was perfect for them. Now his plan specifically didn’t work out but they kept growing beats there and in October 15th 1927 the community got their Sugar Beet Plant. The whole thing is a great story and like so many things in this story I’ve had to fight the urge to go onto a huge tangent with it. SDPB has an article about it you should really check out. Anyway, this becomes relevant to our story due to the one thing beets and hemp have in common. They are very labor intensive. With the region not having the free inmate supply that the state had used for hemp, they imported a lot of cheaper immigrant labor to help with the beets. Many of these immigrants were from Mexico, and they brought with them a culture that was much more familiar with and much less taboo about hemp's cousin cannabis. Some of the immigrants brought it with them and some even planted little personal plots of it at their homes the same way you might plant some rosemary or other herbs in your own garden today. To anyone familiar with American history and immigrant stories this next part will not come as a surprise. Many locals feared these different outsiders moving to the area and one of the things that made them different was the quote “funny cigarets” they smoked. Fear of the other, ethnic tensions, and economic pressure as the 20’s moved into the 30’s would prime the public for a good old fashion moral panic. And the newspapers of the time were happy to sell it to them via high profile crime stories. And of course the selatius murders don’t help. [Dun Dun Dun] An Argus Leader headline from June 26th, 1930 reads: “Lopez Given Life For Knife Murder” The sub line reads: “Mexican Laughs as Sentence Is Passed for Slaying of Highway Employee” On June 16th, Jose Lopez had gotten into a fight with some other beet workers and tried to flee by stealing a car from state highway department worker W. E. Lewis. Lewis’s stabbed body was found on the main highway seven miles east of Newell. When Lopez is captured the only alibi he gave authorities is that he had been smoking marijuana at the time. The crime was shocking, not just for it’s violence and seeming meaninglessness in the face of Lopez’s defiant attitude, but because W. E. Lewis wasn’t just any highway worker. His son was the state Insurance Commissioner Don C Lewis, a popular public figure of prominence in the state. A South Dakota Media frenzy ensues and public officials are soon calling for action. On July 17th State Sheriff Fed Minier called on lawmakers to take action. He told an Associated Press reporter that: “Five murders in the last three years were traceable directly to the use of the drug, which is said to afflic its addicts with fancied wrongs and exaggerated ideas of their own power.” The murder of W. E. Lewis by Lopez is directly cited. During the 1931 legislative season, authorities acted to draft a law banning the possession and selling of marijuana. While the legislature debated, newspapers continued to run stories about beet farming Mexicans causing trouble. These stories stand out as they almost all immediately start by identifying the suspect as mexican and sometimes using less politically correct language. I apologize to any sensitive listeners as I read this passage from an article in the Lead Daily Call from March 31st of that year. “Last night officer Costello picked up Manuel Cedello, 35, Mexican,” It names him as an accomplice to another Mexican’s misdeeds before continuing: “Cedello is the same high jumping Mex the officer picked up several years ago when he ran amuck in the CB&Q Bunkhouses on upper Charles street and chased a bunch of his countrymen around the neighborhood with a handful of knives. On that occasion, Manuel was charged up on Marijuana. He refused to put on his clothes and entirely naked insisted on frolicking in the snow all the way to the police station.” The ban passed and took effect on July 1st 1931. But even with the ban in effect the stories continue to fill South Dakota Newspapers. Marijuana starts being associated with non Mexican criminals as well. In a high profile case in November, James Lawton, a career criminal with an already long rap sheet is sentenced to life for killing a popular former Sheriff William P. Baken. In an exhaustive profile of James Lawton, it is mentioned that he is quote a “Marijuana addict.” This is a high profile case,The Deadwood Daily Pioneer Times on November 3rd quotes police as calling it “The most involved case in the annals of Rapid City Crime.” [blowing winds] The 1930’s were tough on South Dakota farmers. The drought, grasshoppers, and general financial hardship devastated many farms in the Sioux Empire, and many farms went under. Among the natural enemies farmers in South Dakota faced was the infamous Creeping jenny. This vine was and still is a terrible weed for farmers to face. In the summer of 1934 an 80 year old eccentric pioneer thought he had the solution. At his farm In Rock County Minnesota just two miles northeast of Valley Springs, W. W. Bell planted hemp not just as a commodity but as a weapon against an aggressive Creeping jenny infestation on his farm. Unlike alfalfa and other plants used for a similar purpose against Creeping jenny, hemp grows thick enough that it can choke the vine out he claims. In their second story about Bell that summer the Argus Leader reported: “Mr. Bell has been besieged with inquiries about his experiment since publication of a short news item in the Argus-Leader about ten day ago, indicating that farmers are vitally interested in control of the bothersome weeds which quickly spread and cause them heavy losses.” Bell let his hemp go to seed and in December sold the seed to others needing to fight Creeping Jenny. It was a promising business model but Bell would be Hemp’s last great advocate in the area for quite some time. While Bell is fighting weeds the federal government is fighting weed with a national push to get states to crack down on cannabis. South Dakota obliges this push and the legislature passes the Uniform Narcotics Act of 1935. In February of 1937 a combined force of state, county and city police in Sioux Falls launched a massive raid on two gambling houses and a hotel. 13 people are arrested both for selling gambling equipment, and for the first time in South Dakota, arrested for selling Marijuana under the 1935 Act. The next big raid was made by state police in May who broke up a “racket” of four Mexicans selling “refers” in Belle Fourche. And now we have to zoom out on our story to the national level for a moment. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, passed on the 2nd of August. The act was originally passed to increase taxes on the use of hemp. The act did not criminalize the use or possession of marijuana. However, it included a penalty and subjected marijuana possession to some regulations. Farmers had to acquire tax stamps for the production of fiber hemp. While not making fiber hemp illegal, it made growing it prohibitively expensive, effectively killing the industry in its tracks. The federal government had officially begun to blur the line between fiber hemp and marihuana. In September the state secretary of agriculture Gordon Stout ordered his inspectors to start watching for mariuana weed growing wild in the state so that farmers can be ordered to kill the plant. In December a man named James Jenkins was arrested in Sturgis for marijuana possession. He is the first black man arrested solely for marijuana possession in South Dakota. In 1938 the war on the public perception of hemp began in earnest with the full force of the federal and state governments. March PTA meetings across the state are treated to a presentation called “The marijuana problem.” The Washington High PTA in Sioux Falls even receives a special early screening of the film “Assassin of Youth” https://archive.org/details/AssassinOfYouth_423 [find suitable audio clip] Assassin of Youth is a 1937 exploitation film directed by Elmer Clifton. It is a film about the supposed ill effects of cannabis. The film is often considered a clone of the much more famous Reefer Madness (sharing cast member Dorothy Short). The thriller reflects perfectly the anti drug propaganda of its time. Youth marijuana gangs, late night drug parties where anything can happen, and moral comeuppance are the order of the day in this surprisingly boring film. I wouldn’t recommend it. If you’re like me and watch old movies from this era to riff on them, Assassin of Youth is the version of Reefer Madness you ordered on Wish. The filmmakers behind Assassin of Youth are eager to ride the wave of fear spreading across america and capitalize on the publicity by doing these promotional showings. In fact, as a further publicity stunt for the film's official premiere in Sioux Falls, The Granada Theater placed an ad in the Argus Leader on July 1st offering a $100 Cash reward for information leading to arrest and conviction of anyone selling Marijuana in Minnehaha County. That summer Marijuana would be attacked from the pulpits of South Dakota. A Seventh Day Adventist in Huron, Mrs. Grace Stewart delivers a fiery presentation to the Parents Home Commission entitled “Drugs and Young America.” From her speech: “Our own state of South Dakota has not escaped. Several arrests of peddlers have been made in the Black Hills in the beet field regions. It was brought in, no doubt, by those Mexican laborers.” On a personal note I can’t help but pause as I consider how modern this sounds with drugs being tied to imigration and racial overtones. She Continues: “Marijuana is the unknown quantity among drugs. No one knows when he smokes a ‘reefer’ whether he will be a mad reveler, a musician producing hot tunes with incredible skill, a philosopher, or a murderer.” At this time it was common to associate Marijuana with jazz music and specifically the african american musicians who created it. This is a racial subtext that would not be lost on the audience. By December the tide of public opinion had turned and a new history of hemp was being written in South Dakota’s collective memory. The Argus Leader’s Questions Corner column, which had just three years ago celebrated W. W. Bell’s use of hemp to combat Creeping Jenny was asked in about such use and replied: “Several years ago, a few seed dealers sold hemp seed for the purpose of choking out noxious weeds. It is practically worthless for this but some of the plants still exist.” [Music or clip from Assassin of youth] And that's the way it carried on for some time. Newspapers ran little propaganda PSA’s like this jem in the Lead Daily Caller from April 20, 1939: “The natives of the Malay peninsula, while under Marijuana’s effect have been known to engage in violent and bloody deeds with complete disregard for their personal safety. The drug is considered more dangerous than cocaine or opium, neither of which will grow in this country.” A pastor in Sioux Falls told the Hawthorne PTA members that year: “Marijuana is the India hemp plant introduced into this country by way of Mexico and is one of the most dangerous narcotics because it produces illusions of both space and time.” And our favorite movie The Assassin of Youth was so popular it returned to Sioux Falls for a return engagement in the theaters. With such a pervasive campaign of anti weed propaganda being put out by the federal and state government, you might think this is where the story ends for a while. But while america worries about the morality of their youth and mexicans with funny cigarettes, a real threat is rising in the east that will upend every aspect of American life. In 1941 all the pieces started moving in place for a twine shortage on the scale of the one seen in 1917. Financial and regulatory trouble plague the state penitentiary’s twine factory, they have almost since the plant’s inception. You see, other ag states in the region had developed their own twine plants to meet the crisis back in the day and just before 1941 they had started to flood the market with cheap twine. South Dakota’s prison made twine had developed a very bad reputation as a sabotage campaign carried out by prisoners in 1919-1921 had made many producers in South Dakota not trust prison made twine from South Dakota. South Dakota officials were constantly urging civic pride and that South Dakotans need to buy South Dakota twine and buying out of state was unpatriotic. However by 1941 many South Dakota producers were buying twine from the Minnesota Prison system while South Dakota twine was gathering dust in warehouses. In January, South Dakota started backing a move at the federal level to ban the shipping of prison twine between states to force South Dakota farmers to buy the in-state prison twine. At the federal level, they knew a war was coming and that access to fiber for twine would be an early easy target for the Japanese, so authorities started dialing down the propaganda machine against industrial hemp at least. As attitudes are eased a farm column called Farm Observations in the Argus Leader on June 19, 1941 actually recognizes the work of W.W. Bell again. “Bell belongs to that class of farmers who is a big benefit of any section. His early pioneering in farming in the northwest was in connection with alfalfa growing and Mr. Bell, at about the same time Seth Bullock of Belle Fourche was experimenting with alfalfa- the one in the Black Hills and the other in Valley Springs- helped to get the splendid forage well established in the Sioux Falls territory. During recent years, Mr Bell has been experimenting with Hemp for the purpose of samping out creeping jenny, but federal authorities criticize this idea on the ground that hemp was too closely related to the weed drug marijuana and while the hemp seems to get the best of creeping jenny, it is a dangerous proposition in itself” So for those of you keeping score at home, Bell has gone from genius visionary who defeated creeping jenny with hemp, to a nameless unscrupulous seed dealer who’s hemp is dangerous and is useless to kill creeping jenny, to pioneer hero who did come up with a way that works of killing creeping jenny in the span of 7 years. (1934 1941) In April of 1941 an agronomist tracking commodity supplies notes with a single line in his report published papers across the country note that: “Japanese in the Philippines now control more than half the island’s output of hemp.” [Bombing of Pearl Harbor Audio] Then came the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in late 1941, followed by the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in January 1942. In the Atlantic, prowling German submarines stemmed the flow of goods from the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. Committed to a war that required a well-outfitted Navy, the United States and its Allies now had to reconsider their source of nautical rope and rigging. Just days after Manila fell to the Japanese, the US, Great Britain, and Canada formed a “Raw Material Purchase Board” to buy raw materials for arms production as well as “seek alternative sources of rubber, tin, tungsten, hemp, and other vital supplies.” The US government "had recognized the growing tension in the Pacific" before its entry into World War II and anticipated a fiber shortage. When the shortage materialized, the government’s search for replacement fiber sources included experiments with yucca plants in the southwest, transplanting Manila hemp to Central and South America, and planting sisal in Florida. Among these alternatives, it was determined that "American hemp, Cannabis sativa, was the most satisfactory substitute that could be quickly produced." On January 7 1942, not even a week after the source of Manila hemp was compromised, the USDA announced plans to plant 30,000 acres of hemp Kentucky and Tennessee. These fields would produce the seed that would be used by the rest of the nation to grow hemp. [Hemp For Victory Clip] Some farmers in the Sioux Falls area are eager to help the cause, citing patriotism, the high profits to be made, and of course, WW Bell’s success in killing creeping jenny, one farmer writes in the Argus Leader in November of 1942 that if enough farmers in the area agree to grow the crop, Sioux Falls may be able to attract one of the hundreds of federal hemp mills the US Department of Agriculture is building across the country. But it was not to be. While hemp would be grown in the area almost all of the lucrative government hemp mills would be built across the border in Minnesota. The nearest one to Sioux Falls would be built in Jackson MN. This distance from any hemp mills meant that while farms in South Dakota would grow hemp, it would not be in the vast quantities seen in states that received federal mills like Iowa and Minnesota. The Englund & Stavn company of Watertown SD would be hired by the Commodity Credit Corporation (company created by the USDA and War Department to manage their domestic hemp project) to build the hemp mill in Montgomery Minnesota for $118,000. (or $1.7 in June 2020 money) We do know that some hemp is grown in South Dakota as in Minnehaha county for example the war department offers war crop loans in February of 1943 to farmers growing hemp in the area. In September the state department of agriculture reported it had successfully grown a test plot of hemp for the first time in Flandreau SD. Stick a pin in that. Flandreau comes up again later in this story. Individual farmers, especially those who managed to produce high-quality fiber, saw exceptional profits that ranged from about $50 to upwards of $200 per acre, a price fetched by few other agricultural commodities at the time. For Farmers like my Dad who are curious, that would be a crop that brought in $741.02- $2,964.09 in June 2020 money. Overall, in just two crops—1943 and 1944—the nation harvested approximately 186,000 acres of hemp, providing more than enough raw material for military needs. In fact, the government had so much surplus hemp after the 1943 harvest that it had to pay American cord manufacturers to “absorb a portion of the domestic hemp supply.” By the winter of 1943, Midwestern hemp farmers were busily delivering the final bushels of hemp to their local mills. Marveling at their new, profitable industry, they were anxious to plant more acreage the next year. But by January 1944, Allied forces had eliminated the German submarine threat in the Atlantic. With jute and other foreign fibers again coming in from the Mediterranean and Caribbean, the government greatly reduced the domestic hemp industry in 1944. The Rapid City Journal announced that month that, of the 42 Midwestern hemp mills either in operation or under construction, 28 were shuttered, and program acreage was reduced by about 60 percent. The remaining mills were only being left open to process some of the previous year’s hemp that was still drying. [Factory Shutting Down] The abrupt downsizing of the domestic hemp industry apparently took Midwestern farmers by surprise, and many reacted angrily. After all, they had spent the last year learning all they could about hemp, not to mention performing the intense labor of cultivating, harvesting, and processing it. They were paid well for that work, and with a season under their belts, they simply weren’t ready to stop doing it. The hearings and investigations into the war time domestic hemp program are their own story that I can’t do justice to in this episode but if you want to learn more about the states that were very heavily affected by this because they had all of the mills and infrastructure, you should check out the blog Hempirical Evidence which does an outstanding job documenting this story from other states perspective and from a national perspective. By February of 1945 The Argus Leader would report that the Jackson, a facility that had cost $350,000 to build was now sitting empty. When it was operating it had paid out $185,600 to area farmers and had a payroll of $122,444. That's a farmer pay out of $2.6 Million and a payroll of $1.7 Million in June 2020 money. Locals were understandably upset to see it go and were working to come up with a new industry to move into the building. In March, the Minnesota Secretary of Agriculture announced that all of the western mills including Jackson would be converted to corn drying facilities. And with the closing of those final mills, a hemp dark age began in the region. Stories about that time farmers everywhere grew hemp on purpose would be told by farmers to their sons, a few photos would be shown to children and grandchildren. The hemp fields of South Dakota would become another one of those old timer stories that retired farmers in small towns would tell as they gathered at the small town cafes for coffee and games of cards and dominos. [60s Music] Time would march on, America would change and with it South Dakota. During the 1950s and 1960s marijuana use among the growing youth culture and other social movements became a symbol of rebellion against authority. By the late 60’s a cultural backlash against these movements arose in US politics in the form of Richard M Nixon’s election to President in 1968. Nixon had run on, among other things, a law and order platform and once elected that’s what he pursued. [Nixon Audio] As part of the “War on Drugs,” the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, signed into law by President Richard Nixon, repealed the Marijuana Tax Act and listed marijuana as a Schedule I drug—along with heroin, LSD and ecstasy—with no medical uses and a high potential for abuse. It was identified in anti-drug programs like D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) as a “gateway drug.” At the state level the South Dakota legislature would pass a bill that same year giving the state weed commission authority to eradicate “socially dangerous weeds.” In 1972, a report from the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse (also known as the Shafer Commission) released a report titled “Marijuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding.” The report recommended “partial prohibition” and lower penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Nixon and other government officials, however, ignored the report’s findings. In 2016 the public would learn why the findings were ignored. John Ehrlichman, who served as President Richard Nixon’s domestic policy chief gained new notoriety after appearing in a cover story in Harper’s Magazine by author Dan Baum. Ehrlichman, who died in 1999, said, referring to Nixon’s declaration of war on drugs. “You want to know what this was really all about? The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying. We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” [70s Music] In 1975 Davidson County sheriff Lyle Swenson will claim the real reason they try so hard to control wild hemp in South Dakota is the danger it poses to marijuana smokers claiming: “The stuff is easy enough for them to get. So they go out and pick it or what they think is marijuana. In 1972 some Nebraska youths were discovered harvesting what looked like marijuana but was actually poisonous hemlock.” By that time hemp’s legacy in South Dakota was partially forgotten and distorted. In that same article from September 8th 1975 edition of the Daily Republic, staff writer Mary Lynn Locken will claim: “During World War II farmers were paid to grow wild hemp for rope, but the finished product was of such poor quality that the plant was rejected” In 1976 the legislature passed a law to make small amounts of marijuana a petty offense, punishable by a $20 fine. But before that could take effect, in 1977 they reversed themselves and moved marijuana buck up to a misdemeanor in the state. Roger Merriman of the Health Department’s division on drugs and substances control lamented: “I thought maybe we had reached a point where we could concentrate on more serious drug problems, But we have a conservative legislature and that’s where they’re at” Some things never change in South Dakota it seems. Then in 1977 a certain figure of note in South Dakota history weighed in on the issue of marijuana. Someone with an ego big enough that he didn’t really care how the legislature felt about the issue. Attorney General William Janklow, one year away from being elected governor for the first time, tells Associated Press reporter Phylis Mensing: “Chemical Drugs are what I’m really after frankly, I know those hurt people. Marijuana? There’s conflicting reports about that.” He continues in the interview: “We’d emphasize chemicals. That’s the only straight way I can answer it, we start with opiates and heroin and work our way down.” [80s Music] In 1980 a push began in California to legalize marijuana for medicinal use by people with severe or chronic illnesses. The only weed story from South Dakota at the time is a drug plane with 400 bales of Marijuana that made an emergency landing in a stubble field outside Mobridge. California, in the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, became the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal use by people with severe or chronic illnesses. The rising public awareness of the issue and a renewed search for new information about the topic leads the Rapid City Journal to publish an article called “Hemp, Not Exactly What You Thought.” Written by Lynn Taylor Rick covers many of the industrial and commercial uses for hemp that would have been widely known back before the end of the second world war. In Sioux Falls that year, readers were treated to a different perspective. Kevin Woster for the Argus Leader writes on June 17th 1996 the headline “Pot squad uses week spray to make dent in area hemp crop” The story is a profile of David Myers, a state employee described by the piece as: “The county’s one-man search-and-destroy squad in a state and federal campaign to poison wild hemp, which can be harvested and made into marijuana. To do his job, the federal government says Myers has to take a deputy along. The badge and handgun could become valuable if someone happened to be tending the wild hemp when Myers arrived. That hasn’t happened.” And now we’ve reached the part of our story that comes back full circle. The Native Tribes of South Dakota were the first to grow and utilize hemp in the territory and it would be they who spearheaded the fight to bring hemp back from exile. [play in the year 2000 clip] 2000 didn’t start out all that great for hemp in South Dakota. That winter in the legislative session a bill to create some experimental plots of hemp in South Dakota was killed 10-2 in a House Agriculture Committee hearing. But that spring The Oglala Lakota Nation votes to approve the planting of hemp on their reservation. A move that will technically fall into a legal gray area as the tribes claim sovereignty over their lands, while the federal government claims the right to enforce federal laws on the reservations via the Major Crimes Act. Tribes however have never surrendered jurisdiction. Growing the tribe's first patch was Alex Whie Plume. White Plume is the organizer of the Bigfoot Memorial ride and a Former Director of the tribe’s Fish and Game Department and is an outspoken advocate for personal and tribal sovereignty. White Plume’s crop prospers over the summer and a harvest ceremony is planned, but federal law enforcement are making their own plans. On august 24th Armed men from multiple law enforcement agencies converged on White Plume’s farm by land and with two airplanes and a helicopter. 25 agents armed with rifles and wearing bullet proof vests in a scene that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Waco or Ruby Ridge or sadly the pipeline protests of 2016-2017 proceeded to serve White Plume a search warrant. They then held him and his family at gunpoint and the family watched as the federal agents destroyed his hemp crop. [clip from native america calling?14:11] In August 2002, he was served with eight civil charges by the US District Attorney related to the hemp cultivation, and a court order prohibiting continued growing of the crop. Although he appealed, the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the DEA, while acknowledging that its registration process could be a burden and that hemp might be a good crop for the Pine Ridge Reservation. White Plume was elected vice president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe in November 2004, serving until June 29, 2006. After the Tribal Council impeached President Cecilia Fire Thunder and removed her from office, he served as president until the next election in November 2006. Time went on but legalization was becoming a viable movement both for hemp and cannabis. The biggest breakthrough nationally would come on November 6, 2012 when Colorado voters would vote to legalize recreational marijuana. Colorado amendment 64 led to legalization in January 2014. In 2015 the Justice Department outlined a new policy that allows Indian tribes to grow and sell marijuana under the same conditions as some states and the Santee Sioux moved to legalize marijuana on their reservation. The tribe had big ambitions. The new venture was a plan to open the nation's first marijuana resort on its reservation to compliment the tribe’s casino. Santee Sioux leaders planned to grow their own pot and sell it in a smoking lounge that would have included a nightclub, arcade games, bar and food service, and eventually, slot machines and an outdoor music venue. The plan did face resistance from the city of Flandreau leaders. Part of the tribe’s reservation that is scattered across Moody County lies within the southwest corner of that city. The city had a falling out with the tribe that ended their shared policing agreement and meant the city had to downsize it’s police force. After that the city went quiet on public comment on the issue. Not staying quiet was South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley. He opposed the resort from the beginning and threatened to raid the grow facility. The tribe ultimately destroyed its crop in November 2015 after federal officials signaled a potential raid but it wasn’t enough for Jackley, as he had ambitions of running for governor and wanted to project himself as a law and order candidate. So about nine months after the tribe destroyed their crop Jackley announced charges against Eric Hagen and Jonathan Hunt, officials with Monarch America, a Colorado-based company in the marijuana industry. Hagen, 34, of Sioux Falls, pled not guilty to charges of conspiracy to possess, possession and attempted possession of more than 10 pounds of marijuana. Hunt pled guilty to a drug conspiracy count after agreeing to cooperate with law enforcement. Jackley argued that while the state didn’t have jurisdiction over the tribe he argued that state courts have jurisdiction over non-Native Americans who commit “victimless” crimes in Indian Country, so Hagen was prosecuted. Hagen’s defense argued that the federal government has jurisdiction. Eric Hagen went to trial and a jury took only a couple of hours to find Hagen not guilty in state court. He had faced a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on both the conspiracy and possession counts and 7 1/2 years on the attempted possession count. Afterward, Hagen said: “The state didn’t have a case,” “I never once thought that I was guilty.” The verdict was a setback for Attorney General Marty Jackley, who at this point had announced his run for governor in 2018, said in a statement: “I do continue to urge our South Dakota tribes to make their own determination that marijuana grows of this nature can affect the public health and safety on their reservations and across our state.” In 2018 he would be defeated by U.S. Representative Kristi Noem in the republican primary for governor. Some in the media at the time pointed to his decision to pursue charges against the marijuana consultants as a factor in his loss. Of the whole Santee Sioux marijuana resort episode, then tribal President Anthony Reider said: “It’s unfortunate that we were unable to be successful with the project,” “We were hoping with the revenues to do a lot of positive things for the tribe and the local community.” By 2019, only three states allowed no form of hemp farming: Idaho, Mississippi, and South Dakota. The rest of the United States allowed for the cultivation of hemp via commercial, research, or pilot programs. Attempting to catch up with the rest of the country the South Dakota legislature would pass House Bill 1191, creating the framework for industrial hemp growth. The bill has bi-partisan support and passes easily. The South Dakota Farmers Union called the industrial hemp bill "forward thinking" and urged Noem to sign the bill saying: "If the governor would sign this bill, it will open the door to processors and allow our family farmers and ranchers to remain competitive with surrounding states which have passed similar bills," Governor Kristi Noem would veto the bill saying: "Our state is not yet ready for industrial hemp," Noem seemed to revel in her defiance of what the people and legislature of the state wanted, even going so far as to create a highly produced video in which she burns the word veto onto the bill with a branding iron. "I am concerned that this bill supports a national effort to legalize marijuana for recreational use," she wrote. "There is no question in my mind that normalizing hemp, like legalizing medical marijuana, is part of a larger strategy to undermine enforcement of the drug laws and make legalized marijuana inevitable." https://www.facebook.com/govnoem/videos/840599786275555/ [We’re not ready Sound Clip] While support had been bipartisan, the legislature would come up short of the votes to override her veto. Over the course of 2019 pressure mounts on Noem to support an industrial hemp program. There was one incident that sticks out in my mind and helped inspire me to create this history. In November US Senator and former Governor Mike Rounds, a fellow republican, shared a photo on Facebook of his dad harvesting hemp in South Dakota most likely during the 1941-1943 hemp boom we discussed previously. Rounds referenced the picture during a telephone town hall event, where he was asked about the potential of hemp in the textile industry. Rounds said the plant was used to make ropes for the Navy during World War II. Some political observers speculated that the post was a subtle dig at Governor Noem for her 2019 veto and her threats at the time that she would also veto any similar bill in 2020. Then, on March 27th 2020 Noem Signed House Bill 1008 into law effect immediately. 103 years after Governor Peter Norbeck had called for using industrial hemp to save the state's farmers from the 1917 twine shortage. Also in March, Members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe passed a referendum to legalize medical and recreational marijuana on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota with 82% of voters approving medical marijuana and 74% approving recreational pot. The Oglala Sioux will become the only Native American tribe to set up a cannabis market in a state where it's otherwise illegal. Almost 113 years to the day that Indian Bureau agents began to take hemp away from the tribe, the Oglala Sioux are taking it back. In November of 2020 South Dakota will be the first state to vote on both medical marijuana and recreational marijuana legalization on the same ballot. I have no intention of telling you how to vote, but now after this program I hope you feel like you’re more able to make an informed decision. [Hemp for Victory End] So what does everyone think of the new format? Did you love it? Did you hate it? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter. If you really liked the new format and want to help me make more like this, cause lets just say this beast was a mountain of work. I loved doing it, but it took a lot of hours of research. You can help me get more books and access to more research databases by supporting the show on Patreon


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