South Carolina Cannabis Update: Legislative Developments for Medical Cannabis and Hemp Products
By David M. Ullian
Feb 6, 2024
After failing to pass a medical cannabis legalization bill in 2023, the South Carolina Legislature is continuing its consideration of S. 423, The South Carolina Compassionate Care Act (the “SCCCA”), during the 2024 legislative session that began on January 9th. The Senate Medical Affairs Committee approved the current version of the legislation in February 2023. Still, a favorable vote by the full Senate is required before the bill can proceed to the House of Representatives.
The South Carolina Compassionate Care Act
If the current version of the conservative medical cannabis legalization bill is enacted into law, registered patients with qualifying debilitating medical conditions and a doctor’s recommendation would be permitted to purchase a 14-day supply of infused and extracted cannabis products from licensed therapeutic cannabis pharmacies. The state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and the Board of Pharmacy would have responsibility for regulating and issuing licenses for a variety of medical cannabis establishments, including 15 cultivation center licenses, 30 processing facility licenses, four transporter licenses, one therapeutic cannabis pharmacy license for every 20 state-permitted pharmacies, and five independent testing laboratories.
Support for cannabis legalization in South Carolina remains strong. According to a Winthrop University Poll completed in April 2023, 76% of South Carolinians support legalizing medical cannabis, while 56% are in favor of legal recreational cannabis. Republican Senator Danny Verdin, the Chairman of the Senate Medical Affairs Committee, stated in January 2024 that he is “committed to a medicinal cannabis program that is for the health and well-being of South Carolinians.” Democratic House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford said that making South Carolina the 39th state to legalize medical marijuana is one of his caucus’ priorities this year.
Republican Senator Tom Davis, who has been the primary sponsor of medical cannabis legislation over the past nine years, recently indicated that his goal was to have the bill sent to the House in early February after passing quickly through the Senate. On February 7, 2024, the Senate convened for an initial floor debate on the bill and adopted an amendment related to vaping. Votes on second and third readings for the bill are expected to occur within the coming weeks that could result in a Senate-approved medical cannabis legalization bill being sent over to the House.
Considering that the Senate approved a similar medical cannabis legalization bill in 2022, a majority of the Senate recently voted to give the bill special order consideration, and a substantial majority of South Carolina voters support legalizing medical cannabis, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic that a version of the SCCCA will finally be enacted into law this year.
Regulation of Hemp-Derived Cannabinoid Products
In addition to the regulation of medical cannabis for qualified patients, the production and sale of hemp-derived cannabinoid products may also soon be regulated in South Carolina. Referred to the House Committee on Medical, Military, Public, and Municipal Affairs on January 9, 2024, H. 4628 would establish a state regulatory system for the production, wholesale distribution, and retail sale of certain products containing hemp-derived cannabinoids, including products containing no more than 0.3% Delta-9-THC as well as products containing Delta-8, Delta-10, and THCA.
Most notably, H. 4628 would require a business to obtain a license from the state Department of Agriculture to manufacture or sell such hemp-derived cannabinoid products. The bill would also require manufactured products to be tested for cannabinoid content and contaminants by a third-party testing laboratory, establish requirements for packaging, labeling, and serving sizes, and impose restrictions on advertising. Retail sales would be subject to a 5% state excise tax and restricted to individuals 21 years of age and older.
A statute formally regulating hemp-derived cannabinoid products would also be particularly relevant in light of growing public interest in South Carolina in food and beverage products containing hemp-derived cannabinoids. Notably, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) issued a guidance letter in January 2024 that seeks to provide clarification about the prohibitions and requirements for such food and beverage products.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule a call to discuss cannabis developments in South Carolina, please contact David M. Ullian at email@example.com or 617-752-7148.