Prosecutor: CBD is not illegal under state law

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) -- Pennington County State's Attorney Mark Vargo said Tuesday he will not prosecute people for possessing or selling hemp-based CBD oils or Cannabidiols. That puts him at odds with the state's top cop, Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg who maintains the products are illegal.

The disparate interpretations of state statute spring from language in a new law passed this year.

The Legislature in February updated its schedule, or list, of illegal drugs. In the old law there was language that listed all CBD oils, or cannabidiols, as illegal.

Language in the new statute allows for the prescription use of Epidiolex which contains cannabidiols. But gone is the old clear ban on CBD oils and cannabidiols. Ravnsborg said last month that he sees nothing that is unclear. "All forms of CBD oil are illegal," he said in a statement.

But now Vargo disagrees.

"CBD oils do not qualify as marijuana under our statutes and they are not listed in any of the schedules and therefore the CBD oils -- if they are properly labeled and are not mis-branded and not adulterated -- are not illegal," Vargo said.

Leonard Vandermate, owner of Rapid City's Hemporium, has been fighting to legalize CBD for years and openly sells CBD products under his interpretation of the 2019 statute. When told Tuesday afternoon about Vargo's views, he was ecstatic.

"For those who say it is impossible to fight City Hall, it is possible," he said. "You've just got to have a situation that you feel very strongly about, you've got to get people interested in that and then go after what you want but it is possible to make changes in this state."

Ravnsborg's chief of staff Tim Bormann said Tuesday that it is Varo's prerogative to decide what cases he prosecutes but that the A.G.'s position has not changed. "CBD is illegal under the codified laws of the state of South Dakota," he said.