Even Republican lawmakers in South Carolina recently acknowledged that the marijuana laws in their state are extremely outdated and unnecessarily burdensome for their constituents. Last year, Rep. Bill Herbkersman was quoted saying, “It is unacceptable that South Carolinians with serious illnesses have to break the law to alleviate their suffering.”
Up to now, the Palmetto State still doesn’t have a decent medical marijuana program. This has reportedly forced patients to leave for other states where they can get better access to cannabis medication. With the inevitability of legalization slowly creeping up on South Carolina’s shores, Republican lawmakers are buckling down under the pressure from bipartisan supporters composed of health care advocates, criminal justice reform proponents, budget hawks and veterans groups who are pushing to have medical marijuana legalized this year.
Supporters’ hopes are pinned on this year’s version of the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act. SB 150, filed by Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, seeks to legalize marijuana use for patients suffering from debilitating conditions that include epilepsy to PTSD. The measure will also allow patients to buy up to two ounces of marijuana or extract of the same medical value like vape oil every two weeks. It is said that the bill is practically the same as the previous ones that Davis filed since 2015.
A companion House bill, HB 3361, filed by Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Bluffton, along with 18 co-sponsors is also currently making its way in committee.
If signed into law, the measure is expected to generate $112 million in tax revenue and create 1,500 to 2,000 jobs in its first year. Sen. Davis also said that the bill “empower physicians,” allowing them to give their patients effective cannabis medication that can relieve debilitating conditions like chronic pain, cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis.
Overview of South Carolina Marijuana Laws
At present, South Carolina only allows cannabis medication that contains at least 98% CBD and up to 0.9% THC only and this can only be used by patients diagnosed with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, Dravet Syndrome (myoclonic epilepsy of infancy), and other forms of severe, uncontrollable epilepsy. Both medical and recreational marijuana are still illegal in the state.
- Possession – Simple possession of marijuana in South Carolina is a misdemeanor.
- Up to 1 oz – jail time of up to 30 days and a maximum fine of $200
- Subsequent offense – jail time of up to a year and a maximum fine of $2,000
- Sale/Distribution – Selling/trafficking marijuana is a felony that automatically gets a mandatory minimum jail time.
- Less than 10 lbs – jail time of up to 5 years and a maximum fine of $5000
- 10 to 100 lbs – a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 1 year, up to 10 years and a maximum fine of $10,000. Second offense raises the mandatory minimum jail sentence to 5 years, up to 20 years and the maximum fine to $10,000.
- 100 to 2000 lbs or third offense involving 10 to 100 lbs – a mandatory jail sentence of 25 years and up to $25,000 fine.
- More than 2000 to 10,000 lbs – a mandatory jail sentence of 25 years and up to $50,000 fine.
- More than 10,000 lbs – a mandatory jail sentence of 25 years and up to $200,000 fine.
- To a minor, or within a 1/2 mile of a school, playground, or public park – up to 10 years and a maximum fine of $10,000.
- Cultivation – Home growing medical and recreational marijuana is still a felony in South Carolina.
- Less than 100 plants – a jail sentence of 5 years and up to $5000 fine.
- 100 to 1000 plants – a mandatory jail sentence of 25 years and up to $25,000 fine.
- 1000 to 10,000 plants – a mandatory jail sentence of 25 years and up to $50,000 fine.
- More than 10,000 plants – a mandatory jail sentence of 25 years and up to $200,000 fine.
History of Marijuana in South Carolina
South Carolina has been acquainted with the cannabis plant for centuries. Way back in 1733 when the state was still a colony, the cultivation of hemp was encouraged because of its use to the British Royal Navy. But like the rest of the other states, hemp production was greatly restricted after the prohibition.
Things only got worse for marijuana reform in the state in the 1980s during the height of the War on Drugs. South Carolina banned all forms of marijuana in line with federal drug policies, at a time when other states like New Mexico were already implementing medical marijuana laws. For years, the state maintained a choking grip on marijuana that it consistently had some of the highest number of arrests in the nation.
It was only in 2017 that South Carolina resumed hemp production after the approval of the 2014 Farm Bill, the same year an extremely narrow medical marijuana bill managed to pass. Julian’s Law only allowed the use of cannabis oil that is at least 15% CBD and no more than 0.9%.
However, efforts to legalize cannabis were still consistently being shut down year after year, despite polls showing voters support for medical marijuana as early as 2016. Furthermore, polls around that time also showed that South Carolina voters believed that states should be able to carry out their own marijuana policies without interference from the federal government. Despite the stiff opposition, lawmakers like Sen. Tom Davis filed legislation seeking the full legalization of medical marijuana year after year. Davis authored and sponsored South Carolina’s first medical-cannabis legislation and subsequent bills that sought to expand the conditions for medical marijuana.
Marijuana home cultivation laws outside of South Carolina
How do South Carolina marijuana laws compare with home growing laws in other US states? Check out our post on Marijuana Growing Laws in the United States.
FAQs about marijuana legalization in South Carolina
Adult-use cannabis is still illegal in South Carolina.
None. Home cultivation of recreational cannabis is not yet allowed in South Carolina.
Only medical cannabis in the form of low-THC CBD oil is allowed for certain kinds of seizures is currently allowed in South Carolina.
Two bills that seek to fully legalize medical marijuana in the state have already been filed for this year’s session.
SB 150, filed by Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, aims to allow marijuana use for patients suffering from debilitating conditions such as epilepsy to PTSD. The bill will allow patients to buy up to two ounces of marijuana or extract of the same medical value every two weeks.
Meanwhile, the bill’s House counterpart, HB 3361, filed by Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Bluffton, along with 18 co-sponsors is already currently making its way in committee.
None yet since it is still illegal to cultivate cannabis for medical or recreational purposes in South Carolina.
South Carolina residents are not yet allowed to cultivate marijuana at home.
Growing marijuana in South Carolina is still illegal for residents of all ages.
There is a good chance that Sen. Davis’ bill and other companion bills that seek to expand the state’s medical marijuana laws get passed this year. With federal legalization looming on the horizon under the new administration, South Carolina’s lawmakers have no good reason to further delay the implementation of a full-fledged medical marijuana law. However, it is highly unlikely that residents will get the right to cultivate their own plants. Since there is no citizen-petition process in the state, it is also even more unlikely that recreational marijuana gets passed this year.