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South Carolina Bans CBD and Intoxicating Hemp Derivatives Across the State

Adding its name to the growing list of states to take drastic actions against the legal hemp industry, South Carolina’s latest ban on hemp-derived products is the most extreme action taken by officials in any state.



As couples across the globe prepare to celebrate the annual holiday of love this week, there is very little affection left for the hemp industry in South Carolina. As one of the original thirteen colonies, South Carolina was built on the strength of its agricultural might, particularly with the cash crop of tobacco. While those days are long gone (some might add thankfully so), the state still has a substantial agricultural industry and tradition.


One of the more recent crops to stand out in the Palmetto state is hemp. With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill and the SC Hemp Farming Act (HFA), hemp became legal to cultivate and all of its derivative products and uses. 


However, since the end of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns and the spread of legal adult-use cannabis initiatives across the country, a systematic and calculated war has been waged against the hemp industry, most notably by corporate cannabis interests and their bought and paid-for political mouthpieces and servants in Congress and various state legislatures.


South Carolina is the latest state to take up legislative arms against the hard-working and law-abiding medium to small business owners comprising the lion's share of the state’s hemp industry. 


According to numerous media outlets, the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) recently issued an order banning products containing CBD, a non-intoxicant cannabinoid derived from hemp, and synthetic, high-concentration forms of psychoactive THC. DHEC imposed stricter labeling guidelines concerning edible hemp products as part of the ban as well.


Citing the same worn-out reasoning of public health concerns used by their counterparts in other states, DHEC’s move is the most aggressive and extreme action any state has taken against the hemp industry to date. 


“While DHEC’s goal is to educate while we regulate this growing niche of manufacturers and distributors of foods and beverages containing hemp-derived products as ingredients, our obligation under the requirements of both federal and state law is to remove from commerce all food and beverage products containing non-conforming hemp-derived products as ingredients,” Sandra Craig, Director of the DHEC’s Division of Food and Lead Risk Assessments, said in a letter announcing the bans. 


"While DHEC’s goal is to educate while we regulate this growing niche of manufacturers and distributors of foods and beverages containing hemp-derived products as ingredients, our obligation under the requirements of both federal and state law is to remove from commerce all food and beverage products containing non-conforming hemp-derived products as ingredients."

- Sandra Craig, Director of the DHEC’s Division of Food and Lead Risk Assessments


The ban also includes delta-8 THC, delta-9 THC, delta-10 THC, THC-0, or any other intoxicating hemp derivative added to a food or beverage product.


For many supporters of the state’s burgeoning hemp industry and its stakeholders, the action has created confusion and understandable distress for the thousands of entrepreneurs and individuals dependent on the agricultural product for their livelihoods.


“This action has caused confusion and disruption within the hemp industry, which has responsibly adhered to federal regulations and accurately represented its products. While I applaud DHEC’s commitment to public health. I urge the agency to prioritize actions that address our most pressing health concerns,” State Sen. Deon Tedder wrote in response to the DHEC rules announcement.


"This action has caused confusion and disruption within the hemp industry, which has responsibly adhered to federal regulations and accurately represented its products. While I applaud DHEC’s commitment to public health. I urge the agency to prioritize actions that address our most pressing health concerns."

- SC State Sen. Deon Tedder


The proclamation also disallows labels and packaging with references to “THC,” “CBD,” or “delta-9” products or isolates, which, according to DHEC officials, implies the offering is no longer a food item but rather a drug, making it illegal. The ban also prohibits any “full spectrum hemp oil/extract” products from making any health claims and requires those items to be manufactured in food-grade conditions.


However, some legal experts say South Carolina’s actions against the hemp industry are not only ill-conceived but also illegal. Rod Kight, an international cannabis lawyer, has testified before Congress and numerous state legislative committees on the issue of hemp and its legal status. He has also written dozens of articles and legal opinions on the dubious legal treatment of the plant by organizations like DHEC.


Kight details the legal ineptitude of the move by state officials in one of his more recent articles entitled, “South Carolina Hammers Its Hemp Industry.” In that article, he quotes Walt Wilkins, Thirteenth Circuit Solicitor of South Carolina, as saying (concerning the new ban), “You can turn hemp into a THC product by adding an acid into a compound. Well, that creates the THC level increase to the point where it gives you that high, euphoric feeling. At the end of the day, if it gets you high, it’s illegal in South Carolina. Bottom line.”


Wilkins doubles down on his uneducated and bombastic words by adding, “It doesn’t matter to us if it’s Delta-8 or Delta-9 or Delta-10 or Delta-22. If the THC level is above (0.3 percent), it’s a Schedule I drug, and it’s illegal in South Carolina.“


"It doesn’t matter to us if it’s Delta-8 or Delta-9 or Delta-10 or Delta-22. If the THC level is above (0.3 percent), it’s a Schedule I drug, and it’s illegal in South Carolina."

- Walt Wilkins, Thirteenth Circuit Solicitor of South Carolina


That level of venom, along with an absolute unadulterated ignorance concerning the actual law by an officer of the court, is simultaneously breathtaking and unsurprising. Full disclosure: This author and Rod Kight are both originally from South Carolina, and neither this behavior by DHEC or Wilkins nor their rhetoric is remotely unusual. 


However, it is essential to point out and illuminate the facts and legal standing of hemp and its stakeholders in South Carolina. As Kight deftly points out, “Despite Wilkins’ strong (and garbled) rhetoric, SC law provides no support for any of the above comments. Much like hemp laws throughout the country, SC defines hemp with respect to its concentration of delta-9 THC, not with any other cannabinoids or forms of THC or with the effect it produces when consumed.”


In other words, both the 2018 Farm Bill and the SC Hemp Farming Act (HFA) “broadly legalized hemp, the definition of which specifically includes ‘the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the nonsterilized seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with the federally defined THC level for hemp.’”


There is zero legal basis for this action by DHEC, and hopefully, as with many other similar cases across the country, industry leaders can quash the edict through the courts. However, that type of legal action requires money, time, and a state judicial system based on objectivity and integrity, attributes sorely lacking in Sandlapper political and legal circles.


Kight concludes by saying (and his words might as well be those of this author), “I continue to be disappointed in my home state’s backward cannabis policies and priorities. Hopefully, legal action and/or a proper hemp bill will move things in the right direction. Until then, SC is a bad place for hemp. This harms farmers, small businesses, and consumers in the state.”


"I continue to be disappointed in my home state’s backward cannabis policies and priorities. Hopefully, legal action and/or a proper hemp bill will move things in the right direction. Until then, SC is a bad place for hemp. This harms farmers, small businesses, and consumers in the state."

- Rod Kight, International Cannabis Lawyer and Advocate


Nothing else needs to be said.  


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