South Carolina legalizes hemp cultivation and sales

(Note: This story has been updated from an earlier version that incorrectly reported that after one year the program will be expanded to 50 licenses, with each of the licensees permitted to grow hemp on up to 50 acres of land.)

South Carolina became the latest state to legalize industrial hemp cultivation and sales after the governor signed legislation establishing a pilot program.

The bill, signed into law last week, creates a program that will award 20 licenses permitting growers to grow, harvest and sell hemp, The State reported. Each grower may cultivate hemp on up to 20 acres of land, according to the newspaper. The South Carolina Department of Agriculture will manage the program.

Thirty-one states, including South Carolina, allow hemp cultivation or pilot programs under provisions detailed in the federal 2014 Farm Bill, according to The State.

Before receiving licenses, growers must pass a police background check, according to the Columbia, South Carolina-based newspaper. Growers will also be required to collaborate with a South Carolina university to develop products and a market for those goods and also must contract buyers for the hemp.

The law also calls for expansion of the program after one year to 40 licenses, with each of the licensees permitted to grow hemp on up to 40 acres of land.

The state’s agriculture department and universities could further expand the program after that, The State reported.