A Senate panel approved a proposal permitting South Carolina farmers to grow industrial hemp through a pilot program set up with the South Carolina Department of Agriculture. The proposal would create a system to regulate the growing, selling, and importation of industrial hemp in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture and for study by an academic facility, such as Clemson University. Senators recently took testimony from law enforcement officials who cited issues with the Senate proposal and instead encouraged them to allow the House legislation to work its way through the system.
Executive director with the S.C. Sheriffs’ Association, Jarrod Bruder, said though law enforcement typically has concerns about industrial hemp, all parties worked together to reach a compromise in the House. The House version limits the number of farmers in the first years of the program to fifteen and allows law enforcement to do random testing of the plants to ensure marijuana is not being grown. Bruder stated, “We got to a point in the House where, I wouldn’t say we endorse it, but it got to a point where we could hold our nose and say it was good. It was something that we could live with.”
The measure passed a Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources subcommittee three to one, with members saying they planned to amend the proposal in the full committee to address the concerns of law enforcement. Senator Rex Rice voted against the proposal. In addition to oil, hemp can be made into products such as rope, clothing, paper, canvas, soap, and even some food and drinks, such as butter and milk. The Senate proposal is similar to one that will be going to the full House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee.