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Can You Grow Hemp in South Carolina?

South Carolina farmers are returning to the nation's agricultural roots. Like the nation's founder, George Washington, more than three dozen farmers will grow industrial hemp in SC next year.

The state has changed course on hemp with the Industrial Hemp Pilot Program, which allowed 20 farmers to grow the plant this year. State leaders must be happy with the program, because they are doubling the number of permits to allow farmers to grow hemp, from 20 to 40. The state is also doubling the amount that permitted farmers can grow, bringing the total per farmer to 40 acres.

What Is Industrial Hemp?

Hemp is a variety of cannabis sativa, and it is related to marijuana.

But, hemp contains a significantly lower amount of THC, the main psychoactive chemical found in marijuana. South Carolina defines industrial hemp as any part of the plant with a THC content of 0.3 percent or less - if it has more, it is considered marijuana and is illegal. By comparison, marijuana that is used for medical or recreation purposes may contain 40 percent or more THC.

Back when the nation's first president grew hemp, it was primarily used to make rope, clothing, sails, and fishing nets. The plant is still used to make these products, but modern technology has turned hemp into a rock star plant that is now used to make food, paper, textiles, plastics, insulation, and biofuel.

It can also be used to produce cannabidiol, or CBD oil, which is used to treat epilepsy. One of the state's first hemp farmers was partly attracted to the plant because it provides better relief for her daughter's seizures than any pharmaceutical drug. The use of CBD oil for the treatment of epilepsy became legal in South Carolina under 2014's Julian's Law.

Hemp is about as easy to grow as any crop. It will grow in almost any soil, and it requires little water and minimal pesticides and fertilizer.

Why Was Hemp Illegal in SC?

Hemp first came under attack when Congress passed the 1939 Marijuana Tax Act, which put strict regulations on the cultivation of all varieties of cannabis.

In the spirit of the nation's irrational War on Drugs, hemp was classified as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, even though you can't get high on hemp.

Today, more than 30 states allow hemp production, which was made possible by a 2014 federal farm bill. South Carolina joins nearby states North Carolina and Tennessee, as well as the nation's top hemp producer, Kentucky.

Remember, Hemp Is Not Pot

Make no mistake - hemp is not marijuana, and marijuana is still illegal in South Carolina, whether for medical or recreation use. If you get caught with even a small amount of marijuana, you will be arrested, jailed, and prosecuted.

Got Axelrod?

Don't let a marijuana arrest turn into a conviction - especially now, when most of the country is either on the brink or has already legalized weed for recreational and medicinal use.

If you have been charged with possession, distribution, or trafficking of marijuana, schedule a free consultation with a drug crimes defense lawyer on the Axelrod team. Call us now at (843) 916-9300 or fill out our online contact form to discuss your case.

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