by Brenée Goforth
Media Manager & Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
This week, Carolina Journal’s Brooke Conrad reported on a hemp seizure in South Carolina. According to Conrad, the police recently entered a smoke shop in Anderson County, South Carolina, and seized the store’s smokable hemp after testing the product for tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. While hemp does contain trace amounts of THC, it contains less than 0.3% concentration of THC – too little an amount to produce a high. According to Conrad:
The officials confiscated Smith’s smokable hemp after detecting THC. But [store owner] Smith argued they were using “outdated” tests that only check for the presence of THC and don’t distinguish the levels found in different plants.
It is unclear whether or not smokable hemp is legal in South Carolina – or North Carolina for that matter. As Conrad reports:
The laws regulating hemp are vague, and law enforcement in both states would prefer to make smokable hemp illegal because they can’t distinguish the hemp plant from its illegal relative, marijuana.
According to Conrad:
The reason for the sudden confiscation at Smith’s store was the result of an opinion issued by Attorney General Alan Wilson a few days before. Wilson claimed the state’s 2019 Hemp Farming Act passed in March allows only for processed hemp products, not the raw, smokable kind.
“The mere possession of raw, unprocessed hemp or hemp not in a finished hemp product without a license is unlawful,” Wilson stated in his opinion.
Law enforcement in North Carolina interprets the law this way as well, however, not everyone agrees with this interpretation of the law. Conrad reports:
Hemp lobbyists, including [Blake Butler, executive director of the N.C. Industrial Hemp Association], disagree. He refers to the definition of industrial hemp provided in a hemp bill passed in 2015 as including “all parts and varieties” of the plant, saying this should include smokable hemp, as well.
Bills that would clarify the legality of hemp have been introduced in the General Assembly. One such bill, Senate Bill 352, if passed “would reclassify some forms of smokable hemp as a controlled substance beginning Dec. 1, 2019.”