South Carolina Cannabis Laws

Is Cannabis Legal In South Carolina?
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StateRecreationalMedical MarijuanaCBD
South CarolinaNo*Restricted UseYes

Federal Law:

Recreational Medical MarijuanaCBD

Is recreational cannabis legal in South Carolina?

No. Recreational adult-use of cannabis is illegal in the state. Despite the state’s long history of industrial hemp cultivation, dating back to 1733, South Carolina remains one of the most conservative states for cannabis. 

Advocates have introduced many decriminalization and legalization bills in past years that lawmakers have continually rejected. As of now, even a small amount of possession of cannabis is subject to be charged as a misdemeanor. The state’s cannabis penalties as follows:

  • Possession up to 1 oz or less can result in maximum fines of $200 and possible incarceration up to 30 days.
  • Possession of 1 oz or more can result in maximum fines of $2000 and possible jail time as long as one year. 

Is Medical Marijuana legal in South Carolina?

Yes and No. Currently, full-strength medical marijuana is illegal in South Carolina, but CBD oil with a low THC percentage has been approved for patients with specific ailments. 

Under Julian’s Law (SB 1035), signed in 2014, approved patients with intractable epilepsy may be treated with CBD oil. As of 2020, South Carolina’s Compassionate Care Act, which would allow for a comprehensive medical marijuana program, has been delayed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. But, advocates remain hopeful for legalization, as conservatives and medical professionals alike have continue to voice their support of the bill. 

Are CBD products legal in South Carolina? 

Yes. South Carolina legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp with the approval of HB 3559 in 2017. Under this legislation, which expanded a year later, 50 cultivators were permitted to hold state licenses for 50 acres each. 

For once, South Carolina was more progressive than federal law passing their hemp cultivation bill before the Hemp Farming Act of 2018. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp-derived CBD products under federal law in the United States, as long as they contain at most 0.3% THC. 

Any and all CBD in food and drink is still federally illegal.

South Carolina’s Cannabis Timeline:

1733: South Carolina begins cultivating industrial hemp.

1937: The Marihuana (archaic spelling of Marijuana) Tax Act was enacted banning cannabis at the federal level. Medical Marijuana use was still permitted.

1951: The Boggs Act, Sponsored by Hale Boggs and signed into law under President Harry S. Truman, set mandatory sentencing and increased punishment for cannabis possession. 

1969: The Marihuana Tax Act is deemed unconstitutional in the landmark Leary v. United States. Timothy Leary, a professor, and activist, was arrested for the possession of marijuana in violation of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act. Leary then challenged the act because the act required self-incrimination, which violated his Fifth Amendment rights. (The self-incrimination clause provides various protections against self-incrimination, including the right of an individual to not serve as a witness in a criminal case in which they are the defendant, better known as “Pleading the Fifth.”) The court penned the unanimous opinion by Justice John Marshall Harlan II and declared the Marihuana Tax Act unconstitutional. Therefore, Leary’s conviction was overturned.

1970: The Controlled Substances Act is enacted (replacing the unconstitutional Marihuana Tax Act). Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug, determined to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, thereby prohibiting its use for any purpose. This act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon. 

This legislation created five classifications, with specific qualifications for a substance to be included in each. The substances scheduling (classification) are determined by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Yet, Congress does have the power to schedule or de-schedule substances through legislation. Substance scheduling decisions are based on its potential for abuse, accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and international treaties.

Classification of Controlled Substances:

Schedule I: High potential of abuse, not acceptable for medical use

Schedule II: High potential of abuse, sometimes allowed with “severe restrictions” for medical use

Schedule II: Medium potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

Schedule IV: Moderate potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

Schedule V: Lowest potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

1984-1986: Mandatory Sentencing and the three-strikes law were created under the Reagan Administration. This accounts for some of the harshest drug laws designed, including mandatory 25-year imprisonment for certain drug offenses and the death penalty’s promotion to be used against “drug kingpins.”

1998: House Joint Resolution 117, encouraged by the passing of California’s Prop 215, the House of Representatives passed this measure to support the existing Federal legal process for determining the safety and efficacy of certain drugs.  

2014: The Rohrabacher–Farr Amendment passed in the U.S. House and signed into law prohibiting the Justice Department from interfering with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws.

2014: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signs Julian’s Law (SB 1035, legalizing CBD oil as a treatment for intractable epilepsy patients. 

2017: South Carolina lifts the industrial hemp ban, allowing cultivation with the passing of HB 3559

2018: Farm bill legalizes low-THC hemp nationwide and effectively de-schedules hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) from the Controlled Substances Act. 

2021: South Carolina’s Compassionate Care Act is awaiting its vote in the state legislature.

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