The Buzz

It’s the law – now. New SC laws take effect Saturday


Starting Saturday, gas in South Carolina will cost more, but a state employee’s take home-pay will be less.

Those are just two of the better-known changes to S.C. law passed by the Legislature this year.

But lawmakers made other changes that soon will affect your life or already may have.

Hemp, just hemp

After July 1, the S.C. Agriculture Department will begin issuing permits for Palmetto State farmers to start growing hemp.

It has been legal to grow industrial hemp in the Palmetto State since June 10. (Hemp. Not marijuana, hemp’s close cousin, which remains illegal even after some lawmakers tried and failed to legalize the medical use of marijuana this year.)

S.C. farmers will be able to grow hemp for industrial purposes. The state Agriculture Department will issue 20 permits to prospective farmers this year, allowing them to plant 20 acres each of the crop during the first year of the pilot program. In later years, they can grow 40 acres.

More rules for mopeds

Moped drivers got hit with a slew of new requirements in the Legislature this year.

For the first time, drivers will have to register their rides with the state Department of Motor Vehicles. If you’re under 21, wearing a helmet also will be required to take your moped out around town. Drunk-driving laws also will be enforced against moped drivers for the first time.

But don’t head over to the Motor Vehicles just yet. The law passed this year won’t go into effect until November 2018.

S.C. DMV director Kevin Shwedo said his department will put off enacting the new moped rules for a year so it can put its energy into developing new driver’s licenses that comply with federal Real ID requirements. The state will need time to create moped-specific registration software, Shwedo said.

Legal help for overdoses

Other new laws went into effect soon after lawmakers wrapped up the 2017 session last month.

If someone is suffering from a drug- or alcohol-related overdose, a law now protects them or anyone with them from prosecution if they seek medical help.

Signed June 10, the law is intended to ensure that an overdose victim gets medical attention without concern about the threat of prosecution for using, possessing or providing an illegal substance, including, for those under 21, alcohol.

To qualify for the limited immunity, a person “must use his or her own name when contacting authorities, fully cooperate with law enforcement and medical personnel, and must remain with the individual needing medical assistance until help arrives,” according to the law.

Liquor sales

South Carolina’s craft distillers now have a lot more freedom to sell liquor on site.

The state’s 34 distillers now are allowed to mix cocktails in their tasting rooms rather than having to serve drinks straight, under a looser liquor law signed May 19. The new law also doubles the amount of liquor a patron is allowed to have to 3 ounces, two or three cocktails, from 1.5 ounces, the equivalent of a healthy shot.

Previously, distillers were limited to selling 750-milliliter bottles – or a “fifth” – for off-premise consumption. Now, patrons can buy mini-bottles or pints, or the equivalent of three “fifths” a day.