Below, I’ll discuss some of the recent developments in South Carolina and federal laws governing hemp, including the current status of hemp farming in SC, who the typical hemp farmer is, and some of the obstacles faced by hemp farmers in SC and nationwide.
If you are growing hemp and need help navigating SC and federal hemp laws, or if you are considering expanding your operations to include hemp farming, the hemp farming and business law attorneys at Coastal Law can help you to get started, keep it legal, and avoid any unnecessary confrontations with law enforcement or regulatory agencies.
We can also help with business incorporation, contract negotiations, and any litigation that your company encounters. Call now, before you step into the troubled waters of state and federal hemp, CBD, and marijuana legislation.
What is the Status of Hemp Farming in SC?
It is legal to grow hemp in SC with a permit from the SC Department of Agriculture.
The 2014 Farm Bill authorized hemp farming for research purposes only, and SC hemp growers were required to have a letter of intent from an approved college or university where research would be conducted.
In December of 2018, the federal government passed the 2018 Farm Bill which:
- Removes industrial hemp from the federal Controlled Substances Act,
- Legalizes hemp farming in states where it is legal under state law, allowing individual states to decide if they want to allow hemp farming; and
- Authorizes transportation of hemp and hemp products over state lines.
The SC Hemp Farming Act (H 3449)
In March of 2019, the SC Hemp Farming Act (H.3449) which changed the status of hemp farming in SC by removing the caps on the number of permits that can be issued, removing the acreage limits, and doing away with the requirement of a letter of intent from a college or university.
SC hemp farmers must still apply for a permit from the SC Department of Agriculture and comply with the requirements of the Hemp Farming Act which include background checks, GPS coordinates of the crop’s location, and information on the purchasers of the hemp crop.
Who are Hemp Farmers?
Hemp farmers and people who are considering growing hemp are closely following the status of hemp farming in SC. Who are hemp farmers?
Many hemp farmers were already growing other types of crops, and saw an opportunity to expand or supplement their crops with hemp – the plant has many uses including:
- Livestock feed;
- Building materials; and
- Food products made from the seeds or hemp oil.
The biggest thing that makes hemp farming attractive right now is the production of CBD (cannabidiol) oil. CBD oil contains no THC or low levels of THC and is legal in all 50 states.
We have also been contacted by entrepreneurs who were not previously farmers, but who are interested in growing hemp, extracting CBD oil from the plants, and selling the CBD oil and other CBD products.
What are Some of the Challenges Faced by Hemp Farmers in SC?
It is easier now than it has ever been to begin growing hemp in SC. In previous years, the biggest challenge was obtaining the permit from the SC Department of Agriculture. After the SC Hemp Farming Act was passed, however, anyone who meets the requirements can obtain a permit without restrictions on the acreage.
Law enforcement officials who do not understand the differences between hemp and marijuana may still present a challenge going forward – hemp farmers in SC should be prepared to demonstrate that their crop is industrial hemp and not marijuana.
Many law enforcement officers cannot tell the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana, and there have been reports nationwide of law enforcement seizing entire hemp shipments because they were unable to confirm that a truckload of hemp plants was, in fact, not the largest marijuana bust of their career.
What’s the Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana?
Hemp is a form of cannabis. Marijuana is also cannabis, but hemp is not marijuana. While marijuana can be a strain of cannabis indica or cannabis sativa, hemp is always cannabis sativa.
Although hemp may look and smell like marijuana, they can be distinguished. Hemp usually grows much taller than marijuana, the leaves are skinnier than marijuana leaves, and the leaves are usually clustered at the top of the plant.
Industrial hemp has a THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) content of .3% or less, which is not enough to get a person high. Marijuana plants, by contrast, may have a THC content of as much as 30-40%, although 20% is more typical.
Industrial hemp is defined in the 2018 Farm Bill as any part of the plant cannabis sativa L., including the stalks, seeds, and extracts, that has no more than .3% THC content.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Grow Hemp in SC?
Your hemp business attorney at Coastal Law can help you to establish and grow your business by:
- Reviewing the relevant federal, state, and local laws with you or your employees;
- Assisting with the permit application process;
- Helping you to protect yourself with proper documentation;
- Negotiating and drafting contracts for services and sales; and
- Defending against any criminal charges brought by local or federal enforcement.