South Carolina Hemp Overview


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What is Hemp?

Hemp is a herbaceous plant of the Cannabis sativa family. It is different from marijuana on the basis of THC content. Hemp is a Cannabis sativa plant with a THC content of 0.3% or less. Marijuana has a THC content above this and sometimes, it may exceed 30%. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main compound that causes psychoactive effects in marijuana users. Marijuana's attraction as a recreational drug lies solely in the mind-altering effects of THC. Hemp has no psychoactive properties because its major compound is the cannabinoid known as cannabidiol (CBD). Hemp and marijuana share certain similarities in the shape of their respective leaves. The palmate form is replicated in both cannabis varieties. Hemp has broader leaves and can grow up to twice the height of marijuana plants.Hemp can be cultivated in diverse soils but marijuana thrives best in a controlled growing area like a greenhouse.

When hemp is cultivated to produce materials such as textiles, building materials, paper, bioplastics, biofuels, and automotive parts, it is known as industrial hemp. Industrial hemp has a long history in the United States. The following are are some parts and derivatives of the hemp plant:

  • Hemp Seeds: The seeds of the hemp plant are processed into oil and even butter. Hemp seeds are a good source of protein, containing as much as 31% proteinous nutrients. Hemp seed is also high in minerals, vitamins, and fatty acids
  • Hemp Flower: This refers to the buds of the hemp plant. Hemp flower is especially rich in CBD, and most hemp farmers who cultivate the plant for CBD processing ensure their crops produce a surplus of flowers. After being harvested, hemp flowers are dried and sold as smokable joints. Hemp flower joints are believed to provide therapeutic relief from anxiety, stress, and inflammation. Hemp flower is high in cannabinoids and terpenes
  • Hemp Extract: This is a concentrate that contains all of the cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenes, and other compounds found in the leaves, flowers, stalks, and seeds of hemp. CBD oil is a hemp extract that has been found to be beneficial in the management of severe pain, epileptic seizures, cancerous tumors, anxiety, and depression
  • Hemp Oil: This is processed by dehusking the hemp seed and extracting oil from the biomass. Hemp oil is known to be particularly high in such compounds as flavonoids and isoflavones. Hemp seed oil is a non-psychoactive extract containing zero THC and trace amounts of CBD. Hemp seed oil is touted as beneficial for gastrointestinal and skin health
  • Hemp Hearts: These are the soft inner parts of the hemp seed. They are widely eaten as nutritious snack food. Hemp hearts are also known as hulled hemp seeds. They contain only trace amounts of THC and are not psychoactive. They are rich in carbohydrates, sugars, fiber, and protein. Because hemp hearts are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, they are considered good for maintaining cardiovascular health
  • Hemp Milk: This milk is produced by mixing hemp seeds and water and blending the mixture to a smooth consistency. It is favored by vegetarians and individuals allergic to animal-derived lactose. Hemp milk can also processed into cheese

Is Hemp Legal in South Carolina?

It is legal to grow, sell, purchase, and possess hemp in South Carolina. Hemp was outlawed alongside marijuana by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. A marked shift in the legality of hemp in the United States began in 2014, when the Farm Bill was passed. This piece of federal legislation recognized hemp as a crop that could have positive agricultural uses. The 2014 Farm Bill permitted states to set up Industrial Hemp Programs in collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Only higher education institutions and state departments of agriculture were permitted under the Farm Bill to carry out research into hemp. Commercial hemp ventures were prohibited.

In order to adopt the allowances granted to states by the 2014 Farm Bill, the South Carolina General Assembly passed S. 839. This bill amended Title 46 of the South Carolina Code of Laws. The bill was signed into law by Governor Haley in 2014. It legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp and made it unlawful to plant hemp crops and marijuana crops on the same piece of land. S. 839 made it a misdemeanor offense in South Carolina to camouflage marijuana cultivation as hemp cultivation. The penalty recommended by the bill was a prison term of up to three years and/or a $3,000 fine.

H. 3559 of 2017 created the South Carolina Industrial Hemp Program. It permitted universities in the state to establish research programs relating to industrial hemp. Clemson University in South Carolina has been the premier educational institution involved in hemp research in South Carolina. In 2018, another federal Farm Bill was passed by Congress. The 2018 version of the Farm Bill expanded on the provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill. The 2018 Farm Bill provided for the removal of hemp from the list of Schedule 1 drugs and removed the restrictions which had been placed on the cultivation of hemp for commercial purposes. It also allowed the interstate movement of hemp and hemp products. According to the bill, hemp can only be considered legal if it has a THC content of 0.3% or less.

In 2019, the Hemp Farming Act was signed into law by Governor Henry McMaster in South Carolina. It provided for the submission of a South Carolina Hemp Plan to the United States Department of Agriculture within 60 days of the takeoff date of the Act. South Carolina law does not permit the cultivation of hemp at home without a license. Hemp and hemp products are allowed to cross South Carolina state lines.

What Hemp Products are Legal in South Carolina?

Hemp-derived CBD products CBD are legal in South Carolina. CBD products sold in South Carolina must contain a THC level not exceeding the 0.3% limit imposed by federal and state authorities. Low-THC/high-CBD oils with a THC content of close to 0.9% are legal exclusively for the use of qualifying residents of South Carolina who suffer from severe epilepsy.

Other hemp-derived products, such as Delta-8 THC and Delta-10 THC are also legal in South Carolina, but they must be solely processed from hemp and not marijuana. Delta-8 THC products in South Carolina are also subject to the 0.3% THC level rule.

Can a Municipality Restrict Hemp Cultivation or Processing in South Carolina?

There are no provisions in any South Carolina laws that enable counties or municipalities to restrict the cultivation or processing of hemp. Hemp is grown freely in various parts of the state.

How to Get a License to Grow or Process Hemp in South Carolina

Hemp licenses in South Carolina are issued by the South Carolina Department of Agriculture (SCDA). The state has several categories of hemp growing and processing licenses. Individuals who intend to grow hemp must first complete a Hemp Farming Permit Application. In South Carolina, farming permits are exclusively issued to individual operators, rather than businesses. Individuals or business entities interested in providing storage or courier services must complete a Hemp Handler Permit Application. The Hemp Processor Application must be filled by individuals or business entities that intend to process hemp.

Individuals applying for a Farming Permit must provide the SCDA with the following information:

  • Applicant's full legal name
  • Applicant's valid phone number
  • Applicant's valid email address
  • Details of applicant's main residential address
  • Applicant's FSA Farm #, and FSA Farm Tract #
  • Details of applicant's business registration
  • Applicant's driver's license number and proof of state of residence
  • Copy of applicant's driver's license
  • A photograph of applicant showing their head only
  • If applicant is a renter, copy of lease agreement of land area for hemp cultivation
  • A GPS Aerial photograph of the hemp growing field
  • A background check of applicant's criminal history

Hemp Farmer Permit applicants must obtain the FSA Farm # from the Farm Service Agency office nearest to them.

How Much Does a License to Grow or Process Hemp in South Carolina Cost?

South Carolina Hemp Farmer Permit application fee is $100. A hemp license costs $1,000, and is renewable annually.

How to Grow Hemp in South Carolina?

In order to lawfully grow hemp in South Carolina, a farmer must first obtain a permit. S 3559 allows hemp farmers in South Carolina to adopt any planting method that suits them, whether it entails the use of clones, seeds, cuttings, or starts.

Hemp cultivation begins with the planting of the seeds in the soil. Seeds may be planted in the soil either by hand or by means of a mechanical tool called a seed drill. Hemp sprouts can begin to show within seven days of planting. Hemp's natural toughness means that the plant does not require as much water to grow as a fiber-producing plant like cotton. If a hemp field is planted in dense rows, there is little chance of weeds stifling the growth of the hemp plants. Harvesting of hemp typically begins around 12-16 weeks after planting. In hemp cultivated for its fiber, readiness for harvesting is usually indicated by the yellowing of the leaves of the female plant.

Hemp and marijuana belong to the same Cannabis sativa species, but there are differences in the way each is cultivated. Marijuana crops are more often cultivated in greenhouses in order to maximize the flowering potential and THC content of the female plants. The female marijuana plant is generally preferred for cultivation because it produces higher amounts of THC. Hemp, on the other hand, can be grown in open fields. Hemp plants are invariably taller than marijuana plants.

Pesticide use on hemp plants in South Carolina is regulated by the South Carolina Department of Pesticide Regulation at Clemson University. Pesticides approved for use in South Carolina are considered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be 25(b) or minimum-risk pesticides.

Where Can You Buy Hemp Flower in South Carolina

Hemp flower is legal in South Carolina and is sold in pharmacies and dispensaries across the state. It is also sold online. In October, 2021, the South Carolina Attorney-General issued an opinion calling into question the legality of hemp flower sales in the state.

Hemp vs THC

The main difference between the hemp plant and the marijuana plant is the presence of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC. Hemp contains only trace amounts of THC, up to 0.3%. Hemp-derived THC products like Delta-8 are legal for sale in South Carolina, but they must not contain more than 0.3% THC.

Hemp vs CBD

CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that is present in abundance in hemp. CBD is a hemp extract that is used to produce many medicinal formulations such as CBD oil, lotions, and edibles. CBD oil is processed from the flowers, leaves, and stalks of the hemp plant. Hemp-derived CBD products are legal in South Carolina.

Hemp Applications

Although hemp has primarily been known for its use in the production of fiber and oil, it also has quite a vast range of other uses and applications in South Carolina. These include:

  • Hemp Fabric: Clothing manufacturers are increasingly turning to hemp as a suitable raw material for their products. Hemp fabric has several advantages over other clothing fabrics: it is impermeable to the sun's ultraviolet rays, hence protecting the skin
  • Hemp Parts in Automobiles: Hemp is lightweight but resilient, and this has made it an attractive material for the automotive industry. The use of hemp in vehicle construction helps manufacturers reduce the weight of their cars and thus ensure greater fuel efficiency. Some automobile makers are already exploring the use of hemp fiber as a substitute for fiberglass in vehicles
  • Hemp Biofuels: Hemp is made into biofuels such as ethanol, methanol, biodiesel, and hemp biogas
  • Hemp and Phytoremediation: Hemp has also proved useful in the process of phytoremediation. Phytoremediation refers to the use of plants to absorb toxins and pollutants from contaminated soil. Because industrial hemp is a hardy plant that grows even in the harshest conditions, it is grown on land sites that have been contaminated by oil spills, pesticides, and chemicals. Hemp can absorb these pollutants through its roots and render the affected soil safe for use again

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