The South Carolina Department of Agriculture will approve up to 20 applicants this year to grow 20 acres each of industrial hemp, but those approved for permits will have to meet strict standards and pass background checks from SLED and the FBI.
Industrial hemp is used to make rope, clothing, textiles, paper, food, oils and insulation among other things but growing it has faced stiff opposition because of its genetic proximity to marijuana.
The South Carolina law defines industrial hemp as it is defined by the European Union and Canada: “The plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of the plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol [THC] concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dried weight basis.” Any plants above 0.3 percent THC concentration is considered marijuana and illegal in South Carolina, the law states.
Approved applicants must be legal residents of South Carolina. If not the owner of the land used for growing hemp, the owner must provide permission for the hemp crop.
Crops will be subject to THC content testing by a certified lab and state officials must be provided GPS coordinates for hemp plots.
To grow industrial hemp anywhere in the United States, the farmer has to “partner” with a qualified college or university under the auspices of a research program.
In announcing the Department of Agriculture’s preparations for the program in May, Hugh Weathers, South Carolina’s Commissioner of Agriculture, said industrial hemp cultivation will provide South Carolina farmers another option “to increase crop diversity.”
Applicants will have to pay a non-refundable $50 fee and, if permit is granted, a $400 permit fee.)