I’ve seen several statements by South Carolina public officials lately in media reports that give me pause.

Law enforcement and other public officials are expressing their opposition to legalization of marijuana, medical marijuana, and even CBD (cannabidiol) products – I don’t have a problem with that. Some people are opposed to it, some people support it, other people just don’t care. Speak your mind and I’ll listen.

But, when I see public officials expressing their opposition and supporting their position with “alternative facts,” I think that’s a problem and people need to speak up.

Are local and state officials being honest and straightforward in their statements about CBD oil? What myths continue to be perpetuated by public officials?

What Concerns Do Public Officials Have About CBD Oil?

Major Frank O’neal with the SLED narcotics division thinks that “true science” should determine what “true medicine” is, and that “medicine should not be passed based on popular vote or legislation.”

True Medicine Defined by True Science

Sounds reasonable.

Wait, who is going to decide what “true science” is? I mean, just google “climate change” and spend a few hours reading if you are not sure whether politicians should decide what “true science” is.

And, who will decide what “true medicine” is? I mean, if it alleviates pain or has other positive health benefits that are obvious to users, are we going to ignore that if the government says it’s not “true medicine?”

Who decides? The pharmaceutical companies, who know that 1) they cannot control CBD oil sales, and 2) it will hurt their profits taken from patients addicted to their opioid products?

Medical Marijuana Will Become Recreational Marijuana

To be clear, CBD is not medical marijuana – it’s a non-addictive, non-intoxicating chemical extracted from the marijuana plant (hemp plants). Below, SLED is talking about real marijuana, that you put in a pipe and smoke (or cook into brownies and eat).

SLED believes that medical marijuana will quickly become recreational marijuana – medical marijuana cards will be provided to anyone who asks for one, which is the equivalent of legalizing recreational marijuana.

I think that’s a valid point. But, who cares… the entire country is moving, kicking and screaming, to legalization of recreational marijuana.


Because it doesn’t hurt anyone and it’s none of the government’s business

Are People Overdosing on CBD Oil?

According to SLED officials, “CBD oil is not regulated and we’re having a problem across the country where people are overdosing because there is no regulation of what is exactly in the containers they sell as CBD oil.”

Wait, what?

People are overdosing on CBD oil? People are overdosing on THC content when it exceeds .3 percent? What are people overdosing on exactly?

No One Has Overdosed on CBD Oil

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that CBD does not induce physical dependence and is “not associated with abuse potential.”

“To date, there is no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”

I’m pretty sure overdoses would qualify as a public health related problem… Furthermore, unlike prescription opioids, there have been zero reported cases of overdoses on marijuana or THC.

So, what is he talking about?

People are Overdosing on Synthetic Marijuana, or “Spice”

I assume that he is referring to reported cases of overdoses on “spice,” or synthetic marijuana. Possibly he has seen a misleading report like this one, where they show a picture of a marijuana bud and a CBD oil container with the headline “CBD Oil Causing Mass Overdoses Across the United States.” The article was published by a company who is offering to train law enforcement across the country.

But, when you read the article, there were no overdoses on CBD oil. The products contained “spice” or other chemicals, and no CBD at all – it wasn’t CBD oil.

Do We Need to Regulate CBD Oil?

Do we need regulation of CBD oil products? Maybe so.

If companies or people are packaging synthetic marijuana (spice) and labeling it as CBD oil, that’s dangerous and it needs to be stopped. Regulation, however, is not determined by SLED – the legislature passes the laws, and the executive branch (SLED) enforces the laws that the legislature passes.

Clearly, we need legislation to clarify the legality of CBD oil and to regulate its sale. But, lying about the “dangers” of CBD oil is not the way to go about it – according to every source who has studied the product, it’s not dangerous.

Are People Marketing CBD Oil to Children?

Are stores marketing CBD oil to children?

“We have stores on the boulevard right now who have cases of edibles, and they are marketing to children,” Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune said. “If you open one of these jars it looks and smells just like regular marijuana.”

What does “marketing to children” mean?

Maybe someone somewhere is marketing CBD oil to children. Maybe the mayor had additional evidence of that apart from her reported statement. If not, her claim is based on: 1) CBD is sold in the form of edibles (brownies, cookies, and candy); and 2) It looks and smells like regular marijuana.

Adults Like Edibles

That’s not marketing to children. Sure, children like brownies and candy, but so do grown-ups. Nationwide, edibles are among the most common ways that people consume marijuana and CBD oil – it’s marketing to adults.

Now, if there is also a display with a picture of a cartoon character that says, “Hey kids, try this,” that may be different…

Why Do CBD Products Smell Like Marijuana?

I assume the mayor meant it looks and smells like “regular marijuana” after the “regular marijuana” has been turned into marijuana butter and cooked into a brownie or candy, not an actual marijuana bud

Regardless, I can’t make a connection between the odor of CBD products and marketing to children. It smells like marijuana, children love marijuana, therefore they are marketing to children?


CBD products smell like marijuana because CBD comes from a marijuana plant – the distinctive odor is not THC or any psychoactive chemical. It’s not CBD, either. It’s terpenes.

Terpenes are naturally occurring “aromatic organic hydrocarbons,” or “essential oils,” that are found in plants. Rose bushes and other flowers, pine trees, marijuana, and many other “smelly” plants have different “flavors” of terpenes that determine the plant’s distinctive smell.

Maybe the terpenes could be removed so the product does not have the distinctive odor of marijuana? But, why?

What’s Next for CBD Oil in South Carolina?

South Carolina, like many states, has a statutory and regulatory mess when it comes to CBD products and marijuana prohibition.

I have some suggestions for our state’s law enforcement, public officials, and legislators:

  • Don’t make false claims – when the public learns that you are misleading them, you lose credibility;
  • SLED should issue a public statement clarifying what their intentions are – what laws are they enforcing and how are they interpreting those laws? Are they going to be testing CBD products for a limit of .3 percent, .9 percent, or zero THC content? Are they basing their opinion on South Carolina or federal law? Which law?
  • The legislature should rip off the band-aid and pass a recreational marijuana law. It’s coming – why be the last state in the union?
  • If they don’t, they should immediately pass legislation that clarifies that CBD oil is legal in our state and what percentage of THC content is acceptable – law enforcement clearly does not know what laws they should enforce or how, and a s***storm is coming in the courts if they start arresting and charging people under the existing laws.

Who Can I Talk to About CBD Oil?

If you are currently selling CBD oil products in South Carolina, or plan to sell them in the future, you could be taking some risks with your investment, your business, and possibly your freedom.

Do not rely on information in this blog post without consulting an attorney who is familiar with the changing laws and your individual circumstances.

At Coastal Law, we advise small businesses, we regularly defend drug crimes for clients, and we support CBD oil retailers. Talk to a marijuana defense lawyer today by calling (843) 488-5000 or by emailing us through our website.

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