COLUMBIA, S.C. (Mar. 25, 2015) – In 2014, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed S.839 into law, authorizing the growing and production of industrial hemp within the state. Last week, a bill was filed in the state Senate to put this new law into practical effect and nullify the federal ban on the same, in practice.

Introduced by State Sens. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) and Paul Campbell (R-Berkeley) on March 17, Senate Bill 559 (S.559) would set up a licensing process for industrial hemp production, ensuring that planting and harvesting can start taking effect like they are in other states.

South Carolina is one of five states – alongside Colorado, Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont – that have already passed similar measures to legalize industrial hemp without federal permission. Farmers in SE Colorado started harvesting the plant in 2013, and farmers in Vermont began harvesting in 2014, effectively nullifying federal restrictions on such agricultural activities. On Feb. 2, the Oregon hemp industry officially opened for business and one week later, the first license went to a small non-profit group who hopes to plant 25 acres this spring. The Tennessee Agricultural department recently put out a call for licensing, signaling that hemp farming will start soon there too.

Experts suggest that the U.S. market for hemp is around $500 million per year. They count as many as 25,000 uses for industrial hemp, including food, cosmetics, plastics and bio-fuel. The U.S. is currently the world’s #1 importer of hemp fiber for various products, with China and Canada acting as the top two exporters in the world.

During World War II, the United States military relied heavily on hemp products, which resulted in the famous campaign and government-produced film, “Hemp for Victory!”.

But, since the enactment of the unconstitutional federal controlled-substances act in 1970, the Drug Enforcement Agency has prevented the production of hemp within the United States. Many hemp supporters feel that the DEA has been used as an “attack dog” of sorts to prevent competition with major industries where American-grown hemp products would create serious market competition: Cotton, Paper/Lumber, Oil, and others.

Early in 2014, 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.

Applicants would have to follow the procedure outlined in the bill to receive a license including:

(1) a set of classifiable fingerprints and written authorization permitting the criminal history record check…
(2) documentation certifying that the seeds obtained for planting are of a type and variety compliant with the maximum concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol adopted by federal law in the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. 801, et seq.; and
(3) documentation providing the location and acreage of all parcels sown and other field reference information as may be required by the department.

Licensees under S.559 must prove that they have “adopted methods to ensure the legal production of industrial hemp” including destroying or reusing all industrial hemp biproduct that is not put on the market along with details record-keeping that indicates compliance with all of the bill’s provisions.

The Division of Regulatory and Public Service Programs would regulate industrial hemp licensing under S.559. Licenses would be valid for two years from the date they are issued. Licenses could be invalidated by the department if false statements were made on an application form or if the licensee refused to comply with the bill’s provisions.

South Carolina has already overstepped the bounds of what is permitted by the feds. With S.559, South Carolina can take steps to make their industrial hemp program viable, and fully unleash the cash crop to bring prosperity to the state.

For South Carolina: Take action to support the bill HERE

For All 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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