YORK COUNTY, S.C. — South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson was asked three weeks ago by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to give an opinion on the sale of unprocessed hemp known as hemp flower.
It looks just like marijuana and has been on store shelves in South Carolina since last year when hemp farming was made legal.
Hemp flower has a very low concentration THC, which is legally required to be below 0.03%.
An email from 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett reads:
"According to the opinion of Attorney General Alan Wilson dated July 10, the possession of hemp flower without a license is illegal in South Carolina. Effective 11:59 p.m. Aug. 7, all unprocessed hemp products must be removed from stores and may not be offered for sale or possessed. Hemp products possessed unlawfully are subject to seizure as contraband and may possibly result in criminal charges.
“This opinion does not affect the possession or sale of legal CBD oil or other processed CBD product, such as lotions, which may continue to be lawfully possessed or sold."
Jacob Stover sells hemp flower at CBD Distribution on Cherry Road in Rock Hill and said it’s the top seller in the store.
"The level of THC is so low that you're not going to feel any sort of high," Stover said.
>> Reading this story in our app? The new "Follow the Lead" feature allows you to tap the blue tag indicated with a '+' to subscribe to alerts on the very latest breaking news updates.
The hemp is smoked like marijuana and it is used, like CBD, to treat chronic pain, depression and anxiety.
Channel 9 was inside the store Tuesday when we heard that it would be considered illegal to sell it in York County at midnight Wednesday.
"You're going to have so much backlash if this is actually made illegal," Stover said.
Following Wilson's opinion, Brackett met with York County drug agents Tuesday morning to decide on a course of action.
"If you don't have the license, you can't have the hemp," Brackett said. "It's contraband, so it can be seized just like moonshine."
CBD oil shops have exploded onto the scene since it became legal to grow hemp in South Carolina. Your CBD Store does not sell hemp flower over concerns that it's not regulated and it's harder to know what's in the product. However, customers are coming in asking for it.
"Sometimes multiple times a day, we'll get calls, people walking in, asking if we have it," employee Margaret Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson said the shop focuses on a variety of CBD products that help people deal with pain.
"It's really good to see how CBD has helped people," she said.
Stover said his store has sold hemp flower for months.
He said being forced to take it off the shelves almost overnight is a disappointment.
Stover said hemp flower is an alternative to marijuana but in the eyes of the law, it's not anymore.
"You got to get it off your shelf and out of the state," Brackett said.
The Department of Agriculture licenses hemp farmers. There are 114 of them growing it in the state.
No one, however, is licensing stores to sell the raw, unprocessed hemp.
The stores in Rock Hill that sell the product said they're ready for a legal battle, and owners said their product is tested, is safe and helps people who need it.
York County drug agents said when hemp flower started appearing in stores, there were immediate questions about whether it was legal and that's why SLED asked for an opinion from the attorney general. Local law enforcement looked into the issue after that.
CBD oil products are still legal and not included in the ban.
© 2020 Cox Media Group