Is weed legal in South Carolina? Understanding cannabis law in The Palmetto State
The vast majority of Americans live in a state that has legalized marijuana. However, there are a few holdouts. Looking at the Eastern portion of the country, you may wonder, “Is weed legal in South Carolina?”
The Palmetto State has been less friendly toward cannabis consumers and medical patients, refusing to enact any type of reform. Even hemp is heavily regulated.
Want to get the lowdown on marijuana in South Carolina? This guide has you covered.
Is weed legal in South Carolina?
Both adult-use cannabis and medical marijuana are illegal in South Carolina. Those caught in possession of even a small quantity of weed may be subject to fines and/or jail time (see more on that below).
Efforts to pass medical marijuana in South Carolina have fallen short, although lawmakers in the state are gaining traction. In 2022, the S.C. Compassionate Care Act (S. 423) was passed in the State Senate by a vote of 28-15. The bill would legalize medical cannabis for a small number of certain qualifying conditions like cancer, epilepsy, PTSD, and multiple sclerosis (MS).
Unfortunately for proponents, the House of Representatives refused to debate the bill due to a procedural error. Despite lawmakers’ revisions, S.423 remains in limbo. Advocates for the bill are hopeful it will be revisited in 2024.
With a population of just over 5.1 million people, advocates of full adult-use legalization argue South Carolina is missing out on a projected $97 million in annual cannabis tax revenue.
Is CBD legal in South Carolina?
CBD was legalized in South Carolina in 2014, four years before the Farm Bill legalized hemp across the United States. The South Carolina hemp regulations allowed certain medical patients to manufacture and possess cannabis products that contain 0.9 percent or less THC and more than 15% CBD. For reference, federal law requires hemp to contain less than 0.3 percent THC.
People who wish to grow or process commercial hemp must obtain a license from the South Carolina Department of Agriculture. Selling CBD and other hemp products does not require licensure, so buyers must be aware of the risks of this unregulated market. Asking to see a certificate of analysis (COA) for products like CBD oil prior to purchase is a good way to verify authenticity.
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THC-A, Delta-8, and other synthetic cannabinoids
South Carolina law varies when it comes to things like THC-A flower and other intoxicating cannabinoids like delta-8 and HHC. These compounds may be derived from federally-compliant hemp, but that doesn’t make them lawful state-to-state.
Some have interpreted the 2018 Farm Bill to say that THC-A (the precursor to THC) is not a factor in determining if a hemp plant is compliant—just THC. South Carolina has all but banned THC-A flower, following updated guidance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture states both THC-A and THC should be counted toward a plant’s total THC content.
Delta-8 is not explicitly banned in South Carolina, but it’s a touchy subject for police. The intoxicating derivative of hemp is popular in prohibition states because of the gray area it falls under with regard to the Farm Bill. While the products can still be found in shops across The Palmetto State, law enforcement has cautioned the compound is against the law after raids of local hemp shops.
In October of 2021, South Carolina Assistant Attorney General David Jones issued a letter arguing that delta-8 is illegal under the state’s attorney’s interpretation of the South Carolina Hemp Farming Act. The letter concludes that any perceived violations of state law concerning delta-8 will be examined on a case-by-case basis.
Marijuana laws in South Carolina
Cannabis consumers in South Carolina should understand the legal risks associated with the plant. Here’s a breakdown of some of the state’s marijuana laws and the potential sentences convictions could carry.
Possession of marijuana (small amounts)
A person caught possessing up to one ounce of marijuana or ten grams of hash may be charged with a Class B or Class C misdemeanor. Sentencing guidelines for a first offense could mean a fine of $100-$200 and up to 30 days in jail. However, a subsequent conviction could mean a “fine not less than $200 nor more than $1,000 or imprisonment for not more than 1 year, or both.”
Intent to distribute
Possessing more than an ounce of weed or ten grams of hash could mean an automatic “intent to distribute” charge in South Carolina. A first-time offender could face serious consequences, including “imprisonment for not more than five years or a fine of not more than $5,000, or both.” If caught giving cannabis to a minor or possession occurs in a school zone, the sentences may be even more harsh.
Growing cannabis in South Carolina is exceptionally risky. The charges and sentences depend on the plant counts, but any cultivation-related offense is a felony. Those caught growing less than 100 plants face a prison term of up to five years and a fine of $5,000. If more than 100 plants are found, a mandatory prison term of 25 years and a fine of $25,000 will likely be handed down.
Cannabis in South Carolina: consumers beware
Marijuana remains illegal in South Carolina, whether for recreational or medical purposes. While low-potency CBD products are allowed, not much else is permitted in the state. And even if the law doesn’t explicitly ban delta-8, law enforcement does not take kindly to the hemp derivative.
Hope is on the horizon for medical patients, but it could be some time before S. 423 is signed into law. However, until reform happens in South Carolina or federal marijuana legalization occurs, people who have an affinity for pot should exercise extreme caution in The Palmetto State. When it comes to the question of, “Is weed legal in South Carolina” the answer is a resounding “no.”