What Happened to All The Hemp?
If you prefer smokable hemp and live in South Carolina, we’ve got some bad news for you. After some developments in the state government, hemp retailers are pulling smokable hemp products from their store shelves. If you’ve been to Smoke N Brew in Greenville or Charleston recently, you’ll notice we’ve followed suit.
The decision to pull hemp comes after a July 10 opinion from the State Attorney General’s office ruled that smokable hemp qualifies as raw, unprocessed hemp. Under the South Carolina Farming Act of 2019 it’s unlawful to possess unprocessed hemp without a license.
Now, the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) might be in the midst of a crackdown to make sure everyone is in line with the law. The problem, though, is that the law is somewhat unclear on what actually constitutes “unprocessed” hemp.
What Does Unprocessed Hemp Mean?
The South Carolina Farming Act was signed into law by Governor McMaster in March. The law removed the cap on the number of hemp licenses issued by the state, leading to a 565% increase in the number of hemp farmers in the state this year. The law doesn’t just make it open season on hemp, though. Farmers need a state-issued license. That’s where the smokable hemp issue comes into play.
While the law is clear that a license is required to handle unprocessed hemp, the law uses a vague definition of what processing means: “converting an agricultural commodity into a marketable form.” The Attorney General’s office is leaving it up to a case-by-case determination to determine if this applies to CBD flowers, telling WPDE in a statement, “Nothing in our opinion addresses CBD Hemp Flower specifically, so whether that’s illegal without a license is a question of fact, that would have to be determined by law enforcement.”
Many hemp industry insiders, like Emily McSheer of Cannabis Forward, point out that smokable hemp is often treated and dried before it is packaged and sent to the store for sale. They contend that these products are differentiated from a freshly cut plant by these processes and meet the “converting into a marketable form” clause in the law.
Smokable Hemp Confiscations in Greenville
In July the Greenville News reported that two Greenville stores had their smokable hemp stock confiscated by Anderson County Deputies just days after the Attorney General’s office released their opinion. The Anderson County Sheriff’s Office listed “unlawful sale of marijuana” in both incident reports, but did not charge anyone in either incident. The News says it is unclear whether these are isolated incidents or a direct attempt to confiscate smokable hemp as part of a wider crackdown.
SLED officials declined to comment when asked by the Newswhether the agency was confiscating smokable hemp. The News plans to continue investigating and has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with SLED for documents related to hemp seizures made by the agency.
Wary Retailers and Hemp Growers
Either way, it’s enough to make hemp retailers like us uncomfortable. Smokable hemp has been pulled from shelves all across the state while we wait on an official statement from local and state law enforcement officials.
The scare comes as a blow to the state’s hemp farmers as well. The South Carolina Department of Agriculture has issued 114 hemp farming licenses so far, and many of those farmers rely on selling hemp flowers for a substantial part of their income. While CBD tinctures were a big player in the early stages of the hemp boom, high-quality flowers typically have a higher per-pound value.
If this uncertainty remains, it could have a serious impact on our industry, hitting hemp hard before it has left the ground in South Carolina.
The Good News
We can’t leave you on a bad note. The good news is all of your favorite CBD products are still on the shelves at Smoke N Brew. We have a wide variety of tinctures and salves from some of the industry’s top brands on the shelves and ready for sale.
We’re going to keep a close eye on these developments with hemp flowers and we’ll give you an update here when we have a clearer picture of the situation.