South Carolina Marijuana Laws 2024

  1. South Carolina Cannabis
  2. South Carolina Marijuana Laws

Key Points

  • South Carolina has not legalized marijuana for medical or recreational purposes
  • Cultivating, possessing, or selling any quantity of marijuana is illegal and attracts severe penalties. The severity of such penalties usually depends on the amount of cannabis involved
  • Although marijuana remains illegal, the state allows patients with epilepsy to manage their medical condition by using low-THC/high-CBD oil
  • South Carolina prohibits operating a motor vehicle under the influence of cannabis

Is Marijuana Legal in South Carolina?

Marijuana is illegal for recreational and medical purposes in South Carolina, and the use of CBD oil is only permitted for qualifying patients suffering from chronic seizures caused by epilepsy.

South Carolina Marijuana Laws in 2024

There are no new marijuana laws passed in South Carolina in 2024 yet. However, there are early efforts to push through a medical cannabis program in the state. For example, the Senate passed the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act and referred it to the House of Representatives for deliberation and approval. However, this was killed on the floor of the House.

Two other bills which would have legalized marijuana possession and use in the state were not successful. S 335 sought to allow South Carolina residents 21 years or older to access up to 1 ounce of marijuana in addition to up to 5 grams of marijuana concentrates. The bill would also have allowed adults to cultivate up to six marijuana plants at home. S. 268, another legislative initiative that was put forward in 2022 but failed, sought to include a purely advisory referendum on the ballot during the November 2022 election. This referendum would have asked South Carolina 'electors' to decide on whether or not to approve the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state.

In January 2023, two competing medical cannabis bills were read in the South Carolina House of Representatives. These are H 3226, and H 3486 (Compassionate Care Act), both of which were read for the first time on January 10 and referred to the Medical, Military, Public, and Municipal Affairs Committee. A third bill, H 3561, was also read on the same day but referred to the Judiciary Committee. Its aim is to decriminalize cannabis.

Timeline of Cannabis Laws in South Carolina

2014: Julian's Law passed by the South Carolina General Assembly. It allows patients suffering from intractable epileptic symptoms to access low-THC/high-CBD products with at least 15% CBD content and a THC content not exceeding 0.9%. Julian's Law also made it permissible for South Carolina residents suffering from epilepsy to take part in CBD-based clinical trials approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Federal Legalization of Weed in 2024

In April 2022, the U.S. Federal House of Representatives passed a bill to legalize the use and possession of marijuana. Titled the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE), the bill requires the Senate approval before it can be adopted as law.

The MORE Act contains provisions that would remove marijuana from the list of Schedule 1 drugs in the Controlled Substances Act.

There are also provisions in the MORE Act for persons who were convicted of and served prison time for ordinary marijuana possession offenses to have their cases expunged. This would pave the way for them to validly claim to have never been convicted of marijuana-related offenses. Persons whose marijuana offenses were violent would be ineligible for expungement when and if the MORE Act becomes law. Such individuals would need to apply to federal courts to have their cases reviewed and expunged.

Because of the negative cultural connotations of words like 'marihuana' and 'marijuana', Section 11 of the MORE Act proposes the removal of the aforementioned Mexican-origin words in official documents and their replacement with the more culturally neutral 'cannabis.'

Can I Use Cannabis in South Carolina?

Cannabis is not legal in South Carolina. However, the state permits the use of low-THC CBD oils with no more than 0.3% THC concentration and at least 15% CBD for the treatment of epilepsy patients. Marijuana is especially high in the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which induces mind-altering effects in users. As a result, the United States government is of the opinion that the plant or its derivatives has no medical value and that consumption could lead to abuse and dependency. Any Cannabis sativa plant with a THC content of more than 0.3% is considered marijuana and is illegal according to federal and South Carolina laws.

How the Legal Sale of Cannabis in South Carolina Happens

Because cannabis is still illegal in South Carolina, there are no legal sales except for the limited low THC/ high CBD hemp-derived products available for qualifying epileptic patients. The state has no medical marijuana program, but patients who have written recommendations from their doctors can obtain low-THC/high-CBD products solely to relieve severe epilepsy symptoms.

Penalties for Marijuana-related Crimes in South Carolina

Possession

The penalties for possession of marijuana in South Carolina, as enshrined in the state's Code of Laws, are as follows:

  • An individual found in possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana will be charged with a misdemeanor. This offense carries a jail sentence of 30 days and a fine of up to $200
  • An individual convicted for the first time of possessing marijuana for personal use is charged with a misdemeanor. This offense carries a stipulated minimum sentence of one year in prison and a fine of $2,000
  • An individual found in possession of marijuana exceeding 10 pounds but not above 100 pounds will be charged with a felony. This offense carries a prison sentence of between 1 -10 years in addition to a $10,000 fine
  • An individual found in possession of marijuana concentrates will be charged with a misdemeanor. This offense carries a sentence of 30 days in prison as well as a maximum fine of $200
  • An individual arrested while purchasing marijuana within a half-mile radius of a South Carolina park or school will be charged with a misdemeanor. This offense carries a prison sentence of up to one year in addition to a $1,000 fine
  • An individual found in possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana concentrates will be charged with a misdemeanor. This offense carries a prison term of up to 30 days and a fine of $200
  • An individual found in possession of more than 10 grams of marijuana concentrates will be charged with a misdemeanor. This offense carries a prison term of up to five years and a fine of up to $5,000

Possession with Intent to Distribute

In South Carolina, an individual who is arrested with at least 1 ounce but not up to 10 pounds of marijuana and is deemed to have the Intent to distribute it. This offense is considered a felony and attracts a prison term of up to five years and/or a $5,000 fine. If the offender is arrested within a half-mile radius of a park or school, the sentencing judge has the authority to add 10 years to the prison sentence and impose an additional $10,000 fine.

Cultivation

South Carolina law provides for marijuana cultivation offenses to be penalized according to the number of plants involved:

  • An individual found cultivating less than 100 marijuana plants will be charged with a felony. The offense carries a prison term of up to five years and a fine of $5,000
  • An individual found cultivating between 100 and 1,000 marijuana plants will be charged with a felony. The offense carries a mandatory prison term of 25 years and a fine of $25,000
  • An individual found cultivating between 1,000 and 10,000 marijuana plants will be charged with a felony. The offense carries a mandatory prison term of 25 years and a fine of $50,000
  • An individual found cultivating more than 10,000 marijuana plants will be charged with a felony. The offense carries a mandatory prison term of 25 years and a fine of $200,000

Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana (DUI)

It is unlawful in South Carolina to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana.

  • An individual caught driving under the influence will face between 48 hours - 30 days in jail if they are first- time offenders. They will also be required to pay a fine of $400. The sentencing judge has the discretion to order that the convicted individual attend sessions with the South Carolina Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program (ADSAP). DUI convicts must enroll in the ADSAP program within one month of their sentencing
  • An individual caught driving under the influence a second time will face between five days and one year in jail. They will also be required to pay a fine of between $2,100 - $5,000. The court can also order that the convicted individual attend sessions with ADSAP
  • A third-time DUI offender will face between 60 days and 3 years in jail and will be levied a fine of between $3,800 to $6,000. The court may also require the convicted individual to attend ADSAP sessions
  • An individual caught driving under the influence of marijuana will face between 1 - 5 years in jail. Attendance at ADSAP sessions may also be deemed necessary

Possible Remedies for Defendants of violating South Carolina Marijuana Laws

Individuals charged with violating South Carolina marijuana laws can remedy their situation by engaging the services of marijuana defense attorneys. It is also possible for marijuana offense defendants who were merely arrested in proximity to the substance to claim that they were not in actual possession of marijuana.

Confiscation of Assets

The South Carolina Code of Laws provides for the confiscation of materials and assets related to marijuana offenses. Law enforcement agents can confiscate :

  • Marijuana which is seized in the course of marijuana possession or distribution arrests
  • Paraphernalia and other materials related to the manufacture of marijuana
  • Marijuana plants cultivated in furtherance of the offense
  • Money discovered alongside marijuana during an arrest or investigation
  • Property and assets like houses or vehicles which are used in facilitating marijuana distribution and trafficking

What is South Carolina's Cannabis History?

In 2014, the South Carolina General Assembly passed S. 1035, also known as Julian's Law. The legislation made it legal only for patients who have been diagnosed with epileptic conditions such as Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, Dravet's Syndrome, and severe seizures to access low-THC CBD oil. Qualifying patients must have a doctor's recommendation to use CBD products and such products must contain at least 98% CBD content and no more than 0.9% THC content.

In 2015, the South Carolina House of Representatives initiated the Medical Marijuana Program Act, H. 407. This legislation was stalled in the Senate by the Medical Affairs Committee. In order to make the bill more likely to pass in the Senate, two years later, it was amended and renamed the Compassionate Care Act (2017), but it was also killed on the floor of the Senate.

In 2019, the South Carolina House of Representatives amended the Compassionate Care Act and sought to have the bill approved by the Senate. The bill noted that clinical research had proven the medical benefits of cannabis in treating and relieving health conditions that had proved unresponsive to other drugs and therapies. It was pointed out that the painkilling qualities of medical marijuana would greatly reduce the dependency of South Carolina patients on harmful opiates. After deliberations on the provisions of the amended legislation, the Medical Affairs Committee of the Senate decided to adopt a bill focused solely on CBD rather than marijuana.

In February 2022, SB 150, also named the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act, was passed by the Senate. SB 150 would have permitted qualifying patients in the state to access medical marijuana from licensed dispensaries but died in the House in May 2022. The progress of the legislation was stalled after a legal challenge on procedural grounds by a member of the South Carolina House, Rep. John McGravy who argued that the legislation ought to have originated in the South Carolina House and not the Senate.

What are Restrictions on Cannabis in South Carolina?

Cannabis use, cultivation, transport, sale, distribution, processing, purchase, and possession are restricted in South Carolina except for the limited use of qualifying patients who require low-THC/high-CBD therapy to manage severe epilepsy

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