• South Carolina’s Hemp Farming Act and the 2018 Farm Bill allows individuals and businesses to cultivate, process, handle, and sell industrial hemp and hemp products in the state(1).
  • State laws define industrial hemp as cannabis plants and derivatives that contain less than 0.30% THC.
  • The state prohibits the sale and manufacture of food with pure CBD (CBD isolates) and even full-spectrum hemp extracts labeled as CBD(2). CBD oil must be labeled “hemp oil” to remain legal(3).
  • Patients with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, Dravet Syndrome, and other severe forms of epilepsy may be prescribed cannabidiol (CBD) or medical marijuana containing less than 0.9% THC(4).
  • South Carolina laws require hemp license applicants to be at least 18 years old(5). Similarly, CBD retailers often require customers to be 18 years of age or older, following the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recommendations(6).

Cannabidiol (CBD) oil and other industrial hemp-based products are legal in South Carolina, though there are a few restrictions(7).

State residents may grow, process, and sell industrial hemp and hemp-derived products as long as they acquire the necessary permits(8)

Industrial hemp and marijuana are both Cannabis sativa plants; however, only one variety is considered federally legal in the United States.

Under the 2018 Farm Bill and South Carolina laws, cannabis plants with less than 0.30% THC concentration on a dried weight basis are classified as industrial hemp and considered legal(9).

Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is the main psychoactive phytocannabinoid in cannabis plants that induces a high among users.

Any cannabis plant or cannabis-derived product with a THC level above 0.30% is classified as marijuana and is still illegal in many states.

It is important to note that, although hemp-derived products are legal in South Carolina, the state prohibits the sale and manufacture of food products that contain CBD alone.

The state recognizes CBD, a non-psychoactive compound or cannabinoid found in cannabis plants, as an active ingredient in a drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration(10).

The South Carolina Department of Agriculture (SCDA) noted that CBD alone, as an active ingredient in a drug and the subject of many clinical investigations, in any food or drink violates section 301(II) of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act(11).

However, hemp and specific hemp derivatives, such as full-spectrum hemp extracts or oil, may still be used as food additives or ingredients(12).

The SCDA clarified that because hemp extracts contain a variety of cannabinoids aside from CBD, they cannot be considered pure CBD(13).

Among the three different types of CBD, only CBD isolates are not SCDA-approved as a hemp food ingredient(14).

CBD isolates contain pure cannabidiol only. Meanwhile, full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD contain a wide array of components, such as cannabinoids, terpenes or aromatic compounds, and essential oils.

The difference between full-spectrum CBD and broad-spectrum CBD products is the THC content.

Broad-spectrum CBD contains the majority of the compounds naturally found in industrial hemp plants, except for THC.

In South Carolina, full-spectrum hemp oils extracted from whole hemp plants may be legally added to food, provided that the hemp products are not labeled as CBD and do not make any health claims(15).

South Carolina CBD Laws

CBD has been legal in South Carolina prior to the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill at the federal level, albeit in a very limited way. The state also had hemp farming laws years before the federal law was passed.

After the 2018 Farm Bill was enacted, South Carolina showed its support of the bill through new legislation that amended and relaxed the state’s existing laws on hemp cultivation.

Note that South Carolina laws do not include any mention of synthetic marijuana or synthetic cannabinoids. All relevant hemp laws in the state only pertain to industrial hemp, hemp-derived products, including CBD oil, and low-THC medical marijuana.

The following laws played roles in the legalization of CBD in the palmetto state:

Julian’s Law (SB1035)

The use of marijuana, hemp, and other cannabis-derived products have been strictly prohibited since 1970 by the Controlled Substances Act. This statute designated cannabis as a Schedule I substance(16).

However, South Carolina’s Senate Bill 1035 allowed the limited legalization and use of medical cannabis for certain medical conditions.

The then Governor Nikki Haley signed Julian’s Law or SB1035, a cannabidiol and medical marijuana law, on June 2, 2014. 

The bill allowed patients diagnosed with severe forms of epilepsy, including Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, to legally use medical marijuana and cannabidiol(17).

Minors with seizure disorders were also allowed to be treated with medical marijuana or CBD oil upon the recommendation of their doctor and the permission of their parents or guardians(18).

It should be proven that patients are unresponsive to traditional medical treatments before they can take medical marijuana or CBD.

Moreover, the law exempted the use of medical marijuana and CBD oil that had at least 15% CBD and less than 0.9% THC content(19).

Industrial Hemp Bill (HB3559)

The South Carolina legislature passed House Bill 3559 or Industrial Hemp Bill a year before the federal government enacted the 2018 Farm Bill.

HB3559, which was signed on May 10, 2017, created the South Carolina Industrial Hemp Program and legalized industrial hemp cultivation.

Industrial hemp was recognized as an agricultural crop under the bill. The legislation also allowed 20 permit holders to grow hemp on up to 20 acres of land for research purposes during the pilot program’s first year(20).

Forty permitted hemp growers were allowed to grow their crops on up to 40 acres of land during the second and third years of the program(21).

The state’s Department of Agriculture and universities would evaluate the program upon the fourth and succeeding years to decide on the number of permits and acres of land allowable for cultivation.

South Carolina Hemp Farming Act (HB3449)

Following federal law’s removal of industrial hemp and hemp-based products from the Controlled Substances Act, South Carolina moved to lighten its restrictions on hemp cultivation.

The state enacted House Bill 3449 or the Hemp Farming Act on March 28, 2019, which removed the limit on allowable hemp cultivation land.

The Hemp Farming Act also allowed permit holders to grow hemp for commercial purposes(22).

Licensing Requirements 

South Carolina residents may cultivate, process, and sell industrial hemp within the state provided that they are at least 18 years old and received permits from the SCDA.

The permits have strict restrictions on what the recipients are allowed to do and must be renewed annually from the issuance date. 

Hemp processor and hemp handler permit applications are accepted throughout the year. However, hemp farmer permit applications are only accepted during the year’s first quarter.

Hemp farmer permit applications for the 2020 growing season closed on March 31, 2020(23).

Applicants that plan to set up hemp businesses that deal with growing, farming, processing, and selling hemp all-in-one need to apply for a hemp farmers permit, hemp growers permit, and other necessary licenses related to processing industrial hemp. 

Hemp Farmer/Growers Permit

Individuals or businesses applying for a hemp farmer permit must pay an annual fee of $1,000. Applicants are not given their permits until the SCDA has received the payment(24).

Aside from the annual fee, applicants must also show proof of South Carolina residency and undergo a criminal background check.

Hemp farmer permit holders are allowed to cultivate industrial hemp plants. They are also allowed to store, handle, transport, and market raw hemp plant parts(25).

Hemp Processor Permit 

Hemp processor permit applicants are required to pay an annual permit fee of $3,000 per location and a non-refundable application fee of $100.

Individuals and businesses that want to process hemp plants must also get a South Carolina Dealer and Handler License and a South Carolina Weighmaster License(26). Both licenses have separate applicable fees and requirements.

Each processing location requires a separate hemp-processing permit, dealer or handler license, and weighmaster license.

Additionally, each facility needs to pass inspections before the applicants can receive their hemp processor permits.

Hemp processor permit holders are also allowed to store, handle, transport, and market hemp plant parts(27).

Hemp Handler Permit

Hemp handler permits are required for individuals and businesses to store, transport, and otherwise work with hemp, apart from growing and processing.

However, retailers, including online stores, are not given handler permits and are not required to obtain one(28).

Hemp handler permit applicants pay a $1,000 annual fee and a $100 non-refundable application fee.

The SCDA has different hemp handler permit categories:

  • Transporter
  • Laboratory
  • Seed dealer or supplier
  • Warehouse, storage, or drying facility
  • Others (broker, research and development, sales representatives)

Under the interim final rule released by the US Department of Agriculture in October 2019, Industrial hemp and its derivatives may legally be transported or shipped across state lines for processing(29).

Testing Requirements

The South Carolina Hemp Farming Act requires hemp growers to conduct periodic and stringent laboratory testing to ensure that the crops’ THC levels remain no more than 0.30%.

Hemp crops with THC levels exceeding the allowable amount are required to be destroyed in the presence of law enforcement(30).

The SCDA collects hemp plant samples within 15 days before the scheduled harvest. No more than 1% of the plants should have THC content over the allowable 0.30%(31).

All fees related to hemp or CBD-testing are shouldered by the individual or business hemp permit holders.

Buying CBD Legally

Current South Carolina laws do not include age restrictions for buying CBD.

Both the Industrial Hemp Bill and the South Carolina Hemp Farming Act have a minimum age restriction of 18 years for individuals applying for hemp grower, processor, and handler permits.

CBD retailers in South Carolina also often restrict selling CBD products to customers at least 18 years of age, as per the widely accepted age of majority in the US.

The state also defers to the FDA’s recommended age restrictions for CBD products. The agency allows vapor oils and smokable hemp to be sold to legal adults or people at least 18 years old only(32).

However, some online retailers in South Carolina and other states ask visitors to confirm that they are 21 years of age or older.

Thus, CBD oil and other hemp products are legally available for purchase in South Carolina for any person.

Only a medical prescription is required for individuals, especially minors, with severe forms of epilepsy and those who need low-THC cannabidiol or medical cannabis. However, the patients are not required to have a medical marijuana ID card(33).

The FDA has yet to approve CBD oil and other CBD products as medical drugs or treatment. As such, consumers can buy CBD without any prescriptions(34).

How to Choose Which CBD Products to Buy

CBD and hemp-derived products are available in different forms, such as tinctures, vape oils, gummies, topicals, and capsules.

To discover the best CBD products and shops, consumers should choose CBD companies that make the product information, such as the CBD type and concentration, readily available.

Additionally, it is best to look up stores and brands online to check their Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating, customer reviews, or consumer reports to ensure the high quality of their products.

The BBB website features highly rated and accredited CBD businesses in the state. The website also features non-accredited businesses that are still highly reviewed by customers, such as Charlotte CBD in Columbia, SC.

Smokable Hemp in South Carolina

Industrial hemp may also be available as a smokable product, though South Carolina consumers are recommended to avoid purchasing raw, smokable hemp.

The advice to avoid purchasing smokable hemp spread among retailers and consumers after the incumbent State Attorney General stated in 2019 that as the possession of raw and unprocessed hemp without a license is unlawful, law enforcement officers may deem smokable hemp flowers as against the law(35).

It may be safer for individuals with smokable hemp to keep and use it at home to avoid possible legal repercussions.

Consumers buying and using smokable hemp are also advised to make sure that their products are made from natural hemp rather than synthetic cannabinoids.

Synthetic cannabinoids, also called synthetic marijuana, are mind-altering and laboratory-made substances that mimic marijuana’s effects(36). They are commonly used like vape oil for vaping or smoking.

Synthetic marijuana is an illegal and highly potent hallucinogen that can cause elevated heart rate and unconsciousness(37). It may also result in psychosis and paranoia(38).

Moreover, the effects of these man-made substances can be unpredictable and much more potent than natural marijuana, which may lead to fatal consequences(39).

Where to Buy CBD Products Legally

Industrial hemp-derived CBD products are allowed to be sold in dispensaries, market outlets, and online stores under the 2018 Farm Bill, barring individual state restrictions(40).

South Carolina does not require retailers to obtain a handler’s permit to sell CBD and hemp products(41)

Customers may visit health and wellness retailers to purchase CBD oil and other CBD products. Many retailers and CBD brands also offer curb-side pick-ups and online shopping options.

A quick Google search for CBD retailers in the palmetto state shows a fairly thriving CBD industry, with over 40 stores and brands consumers may choose from.

Some of the highly rated and BBB-accredited CBD stores in South Carolina are Essential Vapors & CBD in Lexington, SC, and AJ’s Coastal Bliss District in Conway, SC.

A BBB accreditation is proof that the business met the organization’s accreditation standards, including ethical business practices and a commendable effort to resolve any consumer complaints(42).

Additionally, consumers may order CBD products online, directly through the brand websites or via third-party online retailers. Some websites may require a quick confirmation that their visitors are either 18 or 21 years old.

The Cannabis Pharmacy is a Charleston, SC-based retailer with an online store that carries different CBD brands.

Conclusion

The sale, purchase, and usage of CBD oil and other industrial hemp-derived products are legal in South Carolina.

The legality of CBD and CBD products hinges on the THC concentration. Both federal and state law requires CBD products to have below 0.30% THC content on a dry weight basis to remain legal.

Although South Carolina permits the sale of CBD products, consumers should note that adding pure CBD to food is not allowed in South Carolina. However, state policies and penalties differ per state.

Moreover, consumers are advised to remain cautious when buying or using CBD, particularly CBD products that make health claims. They are encouraged to educate themselves on CBD and be on the lookout for cannabis news, research, and developments. 

The FDA notes that despite the continuing development in CBD research and the many studies that indicate CBD’s promise as a treatment for different health conditions, the agency has only approved one CBD drug for epilepsy.


  1. United States Department of Agriculture. (n.d.) South carolina hemp farming state plan. https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/SouthCarolinaHempStatePlan.pdf
  2. South Carolina Department of Agriculture. (18 July 2019). Hemp products in human food quick guide. https://agriculture.sc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/HempCBDFoodGuide2019_V2.pdf
  3. Ibid.
  4. Marijuana Policy Project. (n.d.) South carolina’s cannabinoid medical marijuana law. Retrieved from https://www.mpp.org/states/south-carolina/south-carolinas-cannabidiol-medical-marijuana-law/ 
  5. United States Department of Agriculture. (n.d.) South carolina hemp farming state plan. Op. cit.
  6. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Smart regulation of products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds, specifically cannabidiol (CBD). Consumer Choice Center. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/media/128474/download 
  7. United States Department of Agriculture. (n.d.) South carolina hemp farming state plan. Op. cit.
  8. Ibid.
  9. South Carolina Department of Agriculture. (n.d.) Hemp. https://agriculture.sc.gov/faq/hemp/
  10. South Carolina Department of Agriculture. (18 July 2019). Op cit.
  11. Legal Information Institute. (n.d.) 21 U.S. Code 331 –  Prohibited acts. https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/21/331
  12. South Carolina Department of Agriculture. (18 July 2019). Op cit.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Ibid.
  16. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2020). FDA regulation of cannabis and cannabis-derived products, including cannabidiol (CBD). https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-regulation-cannabis-and-cannabis-derived-products-including-cannabidiol-cbd 
  17. South Carolina General Assembly. (2014). 2013-2014 Bill 1035 Medical cannabis therapeutic treatment research act. https://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess120_2013-2014/bills/1035.htm
  18. Marijuana Policy Project. Op cit.
  19. South Carolina General Assembly. (2014). Op cit.
  20. South Carolina Department of Agriculture. (12 December 2017). Department of agriculture selects hemp growers. https://agriculture.sc.gov/department-of-agriculture-selects-hemp-growers/
  21. South Carolina General Assembly. (2017). 2017-2018 Bill 3559 industrial hemp cultivation. https://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess122_2017-2018/bills/3559.htm
  22. South Carolina General Assembly. (2019). 2019-2020 Bill 3449 agriculture dept. https://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess123_2019-2020/bills/3449.htm
  23. South Carolina Department of Agriculture. Hemp. Op cit.
  24. United States Department of Agriculture. South carolina hemp farming state plan. Op. cit.
  25. Ibid.
  26. South Carolina Department of Agriculture. Hemp. Op cit.
  27. United States Department of Agriculture. Op cit.
  28. South Carolina Department of Agriculture. (n.d.) Hemp handler application. https://agriculture.sc.gov/divisions/consumer-protection/hemp/hemp-handler-guidelines/
  29. South Carolina Department of Agriculture. Hemp. Op cit.
  30. South Carolina General Assembly. (2017). Op cit.
  31. United States Department of Agriculture. Op cit.
  32. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Smart regulation of products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds, specifically cannabidiol (CBD). Op. cit.
  33. Marijuana Policy Project. Op cit.
  34. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2020). Op cit.
  35. State of South Carolina Office of the Attorney General. (10 July 2019). Letter to mark a. keel, chief of south carolina law enforcement division. Retrieved from https://2hsvz0l74ah31vgcm16peuy12tz.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/KeelM-OS-10372-FINAL-Opinion-7-10-2019-02014949xD2C78-02030076xD2C78.pdf
  36. NIDA. (2018, February 5). Synthetic Cannabinoids (K2/Spice) DrugFacts. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/synthetic-cannabinoids-k2spice
  37. Department of Behavioral Health. Synthetic marijuana can be deadly. Retrieved from https://dbh.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/dmh/page_content/attachments/Frequently%20Asked%20Questions%20about%20Synthetic%20Marijuana%20changes%20accepted.pdf 
  38. NIDA. Op. cit.
  39. Department of Behavioral Health. Op. cit.
  40. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (25 July 2019). Hemp production and the 2018 farm bill. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/congressional-testimony/hemp-production-and-2018-farm-bill-07252019#
  41. South Carolina Department of Agriculture. Hemp handler application. Op cit.
  42. The Better Business Bureau. Get accredited. Retrieved from https://www.bbb.org/get-accredited 
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