How To Open A Dispensary In South Carolina

Overview

Are you wondering how to open a dispensary in South Carolina? This page is dedicated to keeping you up to date on the latest news and information relevant to opening a cannabis business in South Carolina. This includes helpful insights on what is to come next. 

Currently, marijuana in South Carolina is illegal for recreational use but is allowed for medical use for cases with severe epileptic symptoms and with prescription. However, in December 2020, Sen. Tom Davis (S. 150) and Rep. Bill Herbkersman (H. 3361)  pre-filed bills for the “South Carolina Compassionate Care Act” which if passed will widen the coverage and access for use of medical cannabis. This provides hope to many, especially for those who suffer from chronic conditions and benefit from the use of marijuana.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of two significant committee hearings, which affected the marijuana legislation in 2020. Despite this, Governor Henry Mcmaster conveyed his intention of vetoing the bill. Moreover, Sen. Tom Davis is positive that the bill has been fully vetted by stakeholders for five years. He stated that it is high time for lawmakers to allow patients to access medical cannabis, with the consultation of their general practitioners. The bill has been in progress for years, and it needs to gain traction for medical cannabis to be legal in South Carolina.

On top of the bills filed by Sen. Davis and Rep. Herbkersman, two bills were also pre-filed in the House for 2021 hearings. These are The Put Patients First Act (H. 3174) for medical marijuana, and H. 3202 for the access of cannabis for selected military veterans. The growing number of supporters for the legalization of marijuana show the need for a consideration for the individuals who can benefit from its medical use.

During a 2019 poll, 72% of South Carolina residents supported the legal use of medical marijuana, and 23% were in favor of its recreational use.  Locals are in favor of cannabis for any medical condition, even when the state law says otherwise.

The Opportunity Size

When it comes to the opportunity size for South Carolina, as legislation seeks to expand the medical marijuana program, we are truly at the ground floor. As this starts to occur, analysts and groups with vested interest in legalization will start to make relevant projections as to the opportunity size and tax revenue to the state. By signing up for our newsletter below we will keep you up to date on the latest reports.

At present there is no means to apply for a license as a marijuana business, but the 2018 Farm Bill allowed farmers to cultivate hemp for CBD. Hemp program coordinator David DeWitt of the Clemson Cooperative Extension Service stated that hemp was selling for $40 to $50 in 2018. 

In 2019, industrial hemp leader Hemp, Inc. announced that there has been a 565% increase of South Carolina hemp farmers since 2018. The South Carolina Department of Agriculture issued 113 permits to hemp farmers in 2019, which is a significant increase from the 20 farmers recorded in the previous year.

The cap for hemp growers has been removed, which resulted in a 1,189% increase from 2018 reflected in the 3,300 acres used for hemp production in 2019. In December 2020, the South Carolina Department of Agriculture announced that it is already accepting applications for a hemp farming permit in 2021. 

Given the significant increase in hemp farming, there is high hopes for the approval of marijuana cultivation in the state.

Medical Marijuana

When it comes to medical use, THC oil in certain conditions and CBD oil as long as its CBD and THC are legal as long as it is not more than 0.90% THC is legal in South Carolina. This premise on marijuana use is under the “Julian’s Law” enacted in June 2014.

Previous medical cannabis laws focus on the approval of medical cannabis only for severe epileptic symptoms. This prompted Sen. Davis (S. 150) and Rep. Bill Herbkersman (H. 3361) to pre-file two versions of the bills in December 2020 which will create a much larger opportunity for medical marijuana.

Both bills, one for the Senate and one for the House respectively, are called the “South Carolina Compassionate Care Act”, which aim to provide safe access to medical cannabis by individuals with chronic diseases and terminal illnesses. The bills propose the creation of a board to review the conditions that will be added to the list where medical marijuana is approved.

The state will be among the 36 US states that allow cannabis for medical use if either bill from Sen. Davis and Rep. Herbkersman passes.

Here’s a timeline of the previous attempts at legalizing marijuana in South Carolina:

  • In 2015, The Medical Marijuana Program Act (H. 4037, S. 672) was introduced. However, it was rejected by the Senate Medical Affairs Committee in 2016.
  • In 2017, the Compassionate Care Act has a version that failed to gain majority of the votes.
  • In 2019, The laws (H 3081, H 3272) that will legalize marijuana did not advance to committee review.
  • The Compassionate Care Act of 2019 (H. 3660 and S. 366) was introduced to legalize marijuana use for medical purposes on a broader scope.
  • In April 2019, the bill version that covers cannabis flower for medical use failed to meet the deadline for the House passage.

Local Cannabis Restrictions & Laws

In each state, there will be some communities that are in strong support of the state legislation, some with not so strong support, and others that outright do not agree with the state’s decision. As medical marijuana and recreational rules start to change in a state it is very common for towns and municipalities to have their own rules for what is allowed and what is not. As South Carolina’s cities/towns form their own stances on laws whether it’s outright bans or particular restrictions, we will keep you up to date on this section here. 

Medical Marijuana Program Opportunities

The new versions of the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act advocates for a regulation of medical cannabis with access not just limited to individuals who experience epileptic symptoms. It aims to push a medical marijuana program that will allow seriously ill individuals to safely use marijuana with the recommendations of their physicians.

The bills aim to protect not only the patients and caregivers but also staff of medical cannabis establishments among others. Establishments are responsible for imposing a ban on the use of cannabis in the workplace. Under H.3361, an additional provision states that no requirement will be imposed on private employers to make policy changes regarding drug testing.

Below are the proposals under the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act H. 3361 and S. 150.

Covered Illnesses

The serious medical conditions that are stated in the new two versions include: neurological disease or disorder (including epilepsy), sickle cell anemia, glaucoma, PTSD, autism, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, cachexia. The bills also cover people who have any severe muscle spasms, terminal illness and are given a one-year life expectancy, and a chronic condition where opioid can be prescribed.

The bills will also create a Medical Cannabis Advisory Board designated to review petitions for additional serious conditions to the medical marijuana program.

Limitations

The limitations state that the patients shouldn’t engage in any activity that can cause negligence or professional malpractice while under the cannabis medication. Patients and caregivers are prohibited from growing their own cannabis. Suspension and revocation of ID cards will be imposed on any cardholder or staff of a medical cannabis establishment who will be caught violating the law. Civil and/or criminal charges can also be filed against them.

Cannabis Business License Opportunities 

DHEC will use a merit-based application process to issue licenses to 30 processing facilities, 15 cultivation centers, 5 testing laboratories, 4 transporters, and 1 dispensary assigned for every 20 pharmacies. The local governments can regulate the location, number of cannabis, and operating hours of establishments. However, they don’t have the power of completely prohibiting the operations of dispensaries.

Taxes and Application Fees

DHEC will identify the application and licensing fees that aim to cover regulatory costs.The tax for cannabis will be the fixed at 6%, just like the rate imposed on non-prescription medications. Distribution of revenue will be allocated as follows: 3% for improvement of DUI detection, 2% for education on drug safety, 5% for research on medical marijuana, and 90% goes to the General Fund.

As the Palmetto state expands their cannabis program, we will be keeping up-to-date on all relevant news and legislation that is relevant to opening a dispensary in South Carolina.  By adding yourself to our South Carolina Cannabis Mailing List (Below), we will keep you updated on all relevant news that matters and not so easy to find news and comments based on SC Legalization below. This includes but is not limited to:

  • How much does it cost to open a dispensary in South Carolina?
  • What are the requirements to get a marijuana business license and open a dispensary in South Carolina?
  • What special programs will be available?
  • And more
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