A South Carolina bill that would nullify the federal prohibition on the cultivation of industrial hemp passed through committee and is headed to the Senate floor for a vote.

S0839 would authorize the production, sale, possession, and research of industrial hemp in South Carolina, effectively nullifying a federal ban on the same. The Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources unanimously passed the bill Wednesday. It now will be voted upon by the whole Senate.

Industrial hemp falls under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970. It technically remains “legal” to grow in the U.S., but farmers must first obtain a permit from the DEA, a nearly impossible feat. Growing hemp without a permit violates federal law. Many hemp supporters think the DEA acts as an “attack dog” to prevent American grown hemp products from competing with other products produced in industries such as cotton, paper/lumber, oil and others.

When, or even if, Washington DC will completely free the industrial hemp market remains a huge question mark. A recent Department of Justice memo declaring it won’t challenge marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington perhaps cracked the door open for hemp production, but it remains unclear if the feds will take the same lenient position on the crop.

The proposed South Carolina law simply ignores the federal prohibition and opens the door for hemp cultivation in South Carolina. It would allow the state to develop an intrastate market and poise it to lead the way if Washington opens up the interstate market.

Recently, President Barack Obama signed a new farm bill into law, which included a provision allowing a handful of states to begin limited research programs growing hemp. The new “hemp amendment” allows State Agriculture Departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp, defined as the non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis, for academic or agricultural research purposes, but it applies only to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law.

Three states – Colorado, Oregon and Vermont – have already passed similar measures. Farmers in SE Colorado started harvesting the plant in 2013, effectively nullifying federal restrictions on such agricultural activities.

Experts count as many as 25,000 uses for industrial hemp, including food, cosmetics, plastics and biofuel. The U.S. currently imports hemp products, primarily from China and Canada.

ACTION ITEMS

For South Carolina: Take action today to help pass S0839 by clicking HERE.

For Other States: Take action in your state to push legislators to introduce and support bills to legalize hemp farming by clicking HERE.


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