CPD doesn’t have a hemp policy, relying on unclear law

Published: Jul. 31, 2023 at 6:48 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The rules around the retail sale of hemp leaf in South Carolina are hazy.

A WIS investigation found Columbia hemp shops have different interpretations of the law. They fall under the Columbia Police Department’s (CPD) jurisdiction, which lacks any documented policy or stance on hemp leaf.

WIS submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to CPD for all policies or directives related to hemp and the processing of hemp. The department responded by stating “We follow state law” and there are no applicable documents.

State law requires a license for the possession of unprocessed hemp. The definition of “processing” hemp only describes turning the hemp into a “marketable form.”

During its investigation, WIS found one store in downtown Columbia that sells hemp leaf, while a second sells joints filled with hemp leaf. The other stores WIS visited communicated they couldn’t sell hemp leaf.

CPD raided Five Points hemp store Crowntown Cannabis in January, finding “green plant-like material” and arrested the store’s manager on charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and possession of hemp without a license.

The store’s co-owner Michael Sims denied the marijuana charge and questioned the logic of the hemp charge.

“I want someone to explain to me how you can get something growing from a plant, dried, trimmed and packaged or put into a smokable form in a joint without describing a process,” Sims said.

The S.C. Attorney General’s Office wrote a 2019 opinion letter, stating the placement of “raw plant material” in packaging does not constitute processing. The opinion was written at the request of SLED and is not law.

SLED agents assisted in the Crowntown Cannabis seizure.

Sims said he’s not surprised by CPD’s lack of policy.

“Depending on what part of South Carolina you go to, even within the city, not even just other cities, within one city, you see many different levels of enforcement, many different levels of interpretation of the law,” he said.

CPD spokesperson Jennifer Timmons told WIS the department has communicated with Columbia hemp stores, but declined to provide any specifics about what was communicated. She reiterated the department follows the law.

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