South Dakota has opened its first registered laboratory, Cannabis ChemLab, for testing industrial hemp in the state.
Jared Nieuwenhuis, Cannabis ChemLab founder and CEO, founded the lab in early November, and shortly after, it was approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The lab opened this month in Flandreau. It is currently operating out of East Prairie Labs, which Nieuwenhuis also owns, but he eventually plans to separate the two.
"We will be starting with testing hemp this spring and testing throughout the summer until harvest," he tells Hemp Grower. "Once that gets done, then we will start moving into products."
South Dakota was one of the last states to legalize hemp production when lawmakers agreed to allow it last March. This year will be the state’s first year of production.
Nieuwenhuis says he’s already heard interest brewing in the state around hemp production. An Indian reservation near Flandreau, for example, is setting up a production lab and it will produce CBD products, he said.
"Whatever they end up using for CBD products is what ChemLab will also be testing," he says.
The lab is working on receiving approval from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The USDA has delayed the requirement that all hemp be tested at a DEA-registered lab until December 2022; however, when that requirement kicks in, Nieuwenhuis anticipates being ready.
"We have our USDA certification and the DEA is in the process of finishing up their certification for us, so by the spring, we will have that certification as well, and we will be able to take samples from pretty much anywhere to do testing," he says. "So, we'll probably also be doing samples from Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota—basically any state that has its own hemp plan, we would be able to follow that."
As of now, Cannabis ChemLab is the only lab with DEA registration within at least a 100-mile radius, according to the USDA’s lab tracker. The next closest lab is nearly 215 miles away in Fargo, N.D., followed closely by a lab 225 miles away in St. Paul, Minn.
Nieuwenhuis says starting the lab was difficult because even though South Dakota passed Amendment A and Initiated Measure 26 for medical cannabis, state Gov. Kristi Noem has deemed it an unconstitutional amendment.
"The recreational side has been up in the air, and she's basically trying to delay the implementation of it," he says. "So, all of that together has made it really hard to plan out everything for that lab, especially when you don't know what the government is going to stand in the way of. It's going to be interesting to see how it develops over time and just see what happens to those legal challenges."
Nieuwenhuis is also thrilled to see what type of impact the industry will have on the state.
"I am excited to see the amount of investment that could come into South Dakota and help grow the economy," he says. "The economy here is very agricultural-based, so this would kind of fit in with what everybody is doing already."
He also believes that the growth of the industry in the state could cause a generation of entrepreneurs to stay in South Dakota instead of leaving after they receive a degree at one of the state colleges.
"It's my hope that we will have more college-educated people in the state once they get some of those bigger opportunities available," he says. "And these different hemp, CBD and cannabis recreational brands will bring that to South Dakota."