As states across the country have moved forward with legalizing both medicinal and recreational marijuana, South Carolina’s legislature has maintained the status quo. As of early 2020, it remains illegal to grow, distribute, or use marijuana in South Carolina in any form and for any purpose.

What about hemp and cannabidiol (CBD)? These are currently legal, but growing, selling, and using hemp and hemp-derived products (including CBD) still isn’t as easy – or as safe, legally speaking – as many South Carolinians would like. Here is an overview of the current state of the law in South Carolina with regard to marijuana, hemp, and CBD legalization.

South Carolina’s Criminal Laws Regarding Marijuana, Hemp, and CBD

1. Marijuana

In South Carolina, possessing any amount of marijuana is a crime. A first offense involving possession of an ounce (28 grams) or less is a misdemeanor that carries up to 30 days in jail and a $200 fine. A second offense involving possession of an ounce or less is also a misdemeanor, but the maximum penalties increase to a year in jail and a fine of $2,000. First-time offenders who participate in a pretrial intervention program may be able to secure a conditional discharge, which will result in their charge being dropped if they satisfy all required conditions.

All other marijuana crimes are felonies in South Carolina. The law divides felony marijuana crimes into two primary categories: (i) sale and trafficking, and (ii) cultivation.

Sale and Trafficking of Marijuana

  • Less than 10 pounds of marijuana – Up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine
  • 10 to 99 pounds of marijuana (first offense) – Up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine
  • 10 to 99 pounds of marijuana (second offense) – Up to 20 years in prison and a $25,000 fine
  • 10 to 99 pounds of marijuana (third offense) – A mandatory 25-years prison sentence and up to a $25,000 fine
  • 100 pounds or more of marijuana – A mandatory 25-year prison sentence and fines of anywhere from $25,000 to $200,000

Cultivation of Marijuana

  • Less than 100 plants – Up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine
  • 100 to 999 plants – A mandatory 25-year prison sentence and up to a $25,000 fine
  • 1,000 to 9,999 plants – A mandatory 25-year prison sentence and up to a $50,000 fine
  • 10,000 or more plants – A mandatory 25-year prison sentence and up to a $200,000 fine

In addition to marijuana possession, sale, trafficking, and cultivation, South Carolina law also establishes the crime of driving under the influence of marijuana (also known as a “marijuana DUI” or driving under the influence of drugs (DUID)). Penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana in South Carolina start at up to 30 days in jail and a $400 fine, and they increase substantially for second, third, and fourth-time offenders.

2. Hemp

There has been some confusion about the legality of hemp in South Carolina since the state legislature established the South Carolina Industrial Hemp Program in 2018 – and then terminated it with the Hemp Farming Act of 2019. With the repeal of the South Carolina Industrial Hemp Program, it is actually legal for anyone to grow hemp in the state with a license; however, growers and sellers have recently faced raids as a result of the fact that hemp cannot be distinguished from marijuana except through laboratory testing.

Additionally, last year the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office issued an opinion which stated that, “the mere possession of raw unprocessed hemp or hemp that’s not in a finished hemp product is unlawful if someone does not have a state hemp license.” However, the Attorney General’s Office did not clarify what constitutes “unprocessed” hemp or a “finished hemp product.” As a result, there is still a significant amount of uncertainty as to what growers, processors, distributors, retailers, and users can expect when it comes to law enforcement and prosecution. At this point, the one thing that is clear is that anyone who is charged with a crime involving hemp (including anyone who is falsely charged with marijuana trafficking or possession) should seek advice from an experienced South Carolina criminal defense lawyer promptly.

3. Cannabidiol (CBD)

CBD is legal in South Carolina. It is also legal under federal law. However, the key issue is that, in order for CBD to be legal, it cannot contain any tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Additionally, similar to hemp and marijuana, there are no observable differences between CBD and THC. As a result, business owners and other individuals may face prosecution for distributing or using CBD based on its indistinguishability from illegal THC.

When purchasing CBD products at wholesale or retail, South Carolina residents must be careful to ensure that they are not buying products that contain THC. Generally speaking, this means buying product that contain CBD oil derived from hemp, not CBD oil derived from cannabis. However, due to the lack of regulation surrounding CBD products at the national level, even reading the labels might not be enough to protect you against unknowingly buying a product that isn’t legal in South Carolina.

What Should I Do if I Have Been Charged with Marijuana Possession, Sale, or Cultivation in South Carolina?

If you have been charged with a marijuana crime in South Carolina, you need to speak with a criminal defense lawyer promptly. Even if you were arrested for selling or using legal hemp or CBD (or you thought you were selling or using legal hemp or CBD), you will still need to mount a successful defense in order to avoid prosecution and sentencing. Presenting an effective defense can be complicated, and the consequences of failing to do so can be severe. In order to give yourself the best chance of avoiding unjust penalties, you should schedule a consultation right away.

Schedule a Consultation in Rock Hill, SC

If you need legal representation for a marijuana case in South Carolina, contact The Law Offices of Michael L. Brown, Jr. for an initial consultation. To speak with a Rock Hill, SC criminal lawyer in confidence as soon as possible, call 803-328-8822 or request an appointment online now.

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