Is marijuana legal in South Carolina?
Current federal status
Cannabis is illegal under state law.
Marijuana is not legal in South Carolina. Recreational use is prohibited. Low-THC/high-CBD oil is legal, though growers and processors must go through a licensing and permitting process.
Patients suffering a small number of epileptic conditions who have not responded to traditional treatment are eligible for medical cannabis containing no more than 0.9% THC.
The penalties for marijuana in South Carolina are relatively steep:
- Personal possession of under one ounce of raw marijuana flower can result in a misdemeanor conviction, up to 30 days in jail, and fine of up to $200
- A second conviction for personal use is also a misdemeanor, with penalties starting at one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000
- Personal possession of more than one ounce of raw marijuana flower is viewed as intent to distribute and results in felony charges
- A first time conviction may result in up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000
- Cultivation penalties are based on the plant’s entire weight—which can mean mandatory jail time for a single plant
- You can get a $500 fine just for a pipe
- Possession of concentrates can result in a jail sentence of up to 30 days and a fine of up to $200
South Carolina had 34,229 marijuana arrests in 2018, the second highest in the country.
South Carolina recreational & medical marijuana legalization efforts
South Carolina recreational and medical legalization efforts are slow going. Changing the law requires an act of the legislature, which meets once a year. It may occasionally reconvene more than once a year to address specific legislation. The state does not have a ballot initiative procedure.
Current law allows for prescription as treatment for a handful of severe epileptic conditions. The bill was substantially weakened in the Senate Medical Affairs Committee, notably dropping the legalization of actual cannabis flower for medical use. That version did not meet the April 2019 deadline for passage to the House.
Progress stalled in 2020, with two key committee hearings cancelled due in part to COVID-19. It is unlikely that the legislation will see any forward momentum until 2021. Governor Henry McMaster has signalled his intent to veto the legislation, raising the bar for both House and Senate support. The act would need two-thirds support in both chambers to override a veto.
Previous attempts at medical marijuana legislation failed. The Medical Marijuana Program Act (H. 4037, S. 672) introduced in 2015 was killed in the Senate Medical Affairs Committee. A version of the Compassionate Care Act introduced in 2017 also stalled.
Julian’s Law, which allowed for medical use of CBD (cannabidiol) containing less than 0.9% THC for epileptic conditions, took effect in June 2014. Legislation in 2017 clarified that CBD containing 0.3% THC was legal for over-the-counter sale.
2020 US Senate incumbent Lindsay Graham (R) is strongly against legalization. However, his Democratic opponent Jaime Harrison has called for full legalization. Several candidates for the 2020 House elections have expressed support for medical marijuana, notably opponents for the first district Joe Cunningham (D) and Nancy Mace (R). Cunningham has also expressed vague support for state-level decriminalization.
South Carolina residents can register to vote here.
South Carolina cannabis DUI laws
Even in medical-use and adult-use states, it is illegal to drive while under the influence. Cannabis is a controlled substance in South Carolina, and you can’t drive intoxicated on a controlled substance. “Intoxicated” is defined as “not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of … a controlled substance.”
A person who drives a motor vehicle in South Carolina is deemed to have given consent to chemical tests of breath, blood, or urine to determine presence of alcohol or drugs. A refusal to submit to such a test shall result in immediate driver’s license suspension, although the driver may request additional independent testing.
Cannabis DUI penalties
- First offense: Between 48 hours and 30 days in jail and a $400 fine, although judge may order 48 hours of public service employment in lieu of jail time. Judge may require offender to attend Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Plan.
- Second offense: Between five days and one year in jail, and a $2,100-$5,000 fine, of which all but $1,100 may be suspended if the judge so chooses. Offender shall be required to attend Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Plan.
- Third offense: Between 60 days and three years in jail, and a $3,800-$6,300 fine. Offender shall be required to attend Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Plan.
- Fourth and subsequent offenses: 1-5 years in prison. Offender required to attend Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Plan.
For more information, please refer to SC Code Ann. § 56-5-2930.
Common questions about marijuana legalization in South Carolina
Are edibles legal in South Carolina?
No. Edibles (like pot brownies) are illegal. In 2019, regulators clarified that CBD edibles are also illegal. However, pending legislation that would legalize medical cannabis provides for edibles purchased from a licensed dispensary.
Is South Carolina a legal recreational state?
No, South Carolina is not a recreational weed state. It’s an extreme prohibition state.
Is CBD legal in South Carolina?
Yes, CBD is legal in South Carolina if it has less than 0.3% THC. This was first established in 2017 legislation and reinforced by federal legislation in 2018. CBD products from the national market are widely available, but loosely regulated. CBD edibles are not legal. Medical use for epileptic conditions is legal; the derivatives used for such treatment must contain 0.9% THC or less.
Is smokable hemp allowed in South Carolina?
No. In 2019, the South Carolina attorney general issued an opinion stating that sale of raw hemp to consumers was illegal.
Can you get a medical marijuana card in South Carolina?
Yes. Sale of derivatives containing less than 0.9% THC is restricted to patients suffering from a narrow range of epileptic conditions. Further legislation is pending as of 2020.
What are the conditions covered under the existing medical marijuana program?
- Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome
- Dravet Syndrome
- Other forms of severe epilepsy
Learn more about marijuana legalization in South Carolina
Learn more about the regulations and laws surrounding cannabis policy in South Carolina:
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