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South Carolina Quietly Legalizes Hemp Production

Maureen Meehan

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South Carolina really needed this: the state’s General Assembly recently legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp.

As local newspapers quickly explained the difference between hemp and its groovy cousin marijuana, state politicians and farmers jumped for joy.

“Any agricultural crop we can cultivate here and make a profit for our farmers, we should try,” said Republican State Senator Greg Hembree.

After all, agribusiness is the No. 1 industry in the Palmetto State, so farmers are also celebrating.

South Carolina farmer Neal Baxley, confirmed that he is definitely interested in planting hemp on some of his available fields where “sunshine is frequent and rain is regular.”

“We’re in an economically depressed region of the state,” said Baxley “So why couldn’t South Carolina attract a new industry, something that has some growth potential? The more people who get the opportunity to get involved in agriculture, the better I think we are in the long run.”

Democratic Representative Russell Ott, co-sponsor of the bipartisan Hemp Bill, said he wouldn’t be surprised if farmers are growing hemp in the next few months.

“The bottom line is, we could have hemp being grown in South Carolina this year. And that’s exciting,” said Ott, who is also a farmer.

People are expecting South Carolina’s authorities to issue at least 20 licenses to grow crops on up to 20 acres as a pilot program, with more to be added soon.

“It’s my hope that they will act very quickly,” said State Sen. Danny Verdin, chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Today, about 90 percent of the hemp used in the United States for industrial purposes is imported from China. But, it’s time to bring it back home.

One of the fastest growing plants in the world and known as the most versatile plant on earth, hemp is used for making all manner of essential objects such as paper, textiles, cloth, biodegradable plastics, paint, biofuel—the list is long.

But, because it is part of the marijuana plant, it was declared illegal in the U.S. in 1937.

The industry is just barely getting back in on its feet again, thanks to the  2014 farm bill passed under President Obama.

One of the problems about sanctioning hemp cultivation has been due to the spread of a spurious lie that large hemp fields could be used to mask weed cultivation.

John Finamore, executive director of the National Hemp Association in Denver, shot that notion down.

“The last thing a marijuana grower wants to do is grow them together,” he said, noting that hemp is the dominant of the two species and would neutralize the psychoactive compounds in marijuana.

And no one wants that.

So far, 31 states have laws to provide for hemp production or pilot programs under the Farm Bill, now including North Carolina and recently Tennessee.

Colorado, where hemp cultivation is unlimited, and Kentucky lead the nation in hemp production, growing more than 10,000 acres each.

Tell your congress people that it’s time to bring hemp home.

RELATED: Hemp Ninja Training—Relaunching an American Industry
You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.

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