Shortly after the close of South Carolina’s legislative session earlier this month, Gov. Henry McMaster signed a bill legalizing the cultivation and sale of industrial hemp, according to a report by The State.
Next, the South Carolina Department of Agriculture and the State Law Enforcement Division must issue the state’s 20 hemp licenses — these will allow farmers to grow the crop on 20-acre plots as part of the state’s pilot hemp program. After one year, the number of available licenses will increase to 50 for a maximum of 50 acres each.
Before receiving a license, interested farmers will be required to pass a State Law Enforcement Division background check, establish a partnership with an in-state research university, and line up a contracted buyer for the hemp products.
Republican State Sen. Danny Verdin, chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, said he hopes state officials will act quickly, noting that, in South Carolina’s warm climate, hemp farmers could expect to get three or even four crops per year.
“Any agricultural crop we can cultivate here and make a profit for our farmers, we should try,” said State Sen. Greg Hembree, a Republican from Horry.
Hembree also noted that agribusiness is South Carolina‘s strongest industry.
Cannabis remains illegal in South Carolina, even for medical purposes, though activists believe that medical cannabis legislation may be a possibility for 2018.