HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – The 2019 South Carolina Industrial Hemp Pilot Program is doubling in size for a second year to see if it could be the state’s new cash crop. 40 farmers will be selected for permits to grow up to 40-acres of hemp next year.
The South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture, Hugh Weathers, said by expanding the industrial hemp program, it’ll provide a greater opportunity to assess where and how industrial hemp grows best in our state.
Although hemp and marijuana are related, supporters of the crop say industrial hemp is nothing like marijuana and cannot be used as a drug. Experts say the most common misconception of Hemp is that it’s a drug. But as local farmers say it’s not marijuana and can’t get you high at all. It’s a crop, just like corn or wheat.
Janel Ralph is the CEO of Palmetto Harmony, a company that produces CBD oils, which comes from hemp. She said hemp is a multi-purpose crop and profitable. Our clothes, paper products, and even the door panels of our cars can be made from hemp.
Ralph was operating her business from Kentucky since 2014 and brought it home to South Carolina after being accepted into this year’s industrial hemp pilot program. Right now, Ralph is one of the 20 farmers growing hemp through the pilot program this year and the only one in Horry County. But, she believes this program shouldn’t have any restrictions.
“I think that any farmer that has the capability to grow this should be able to grow it. That’s the only way we’re going to know and understand how this crop is going to benefit the farmers in South Carolina. And like I said, there’s no limitation on any other states licenses, I think it’s done us a real injustice to our farmers here, to put these limits on it,” said Ralph.
Right now, her nursery is housing about 3,200 seedlings, that will turn into 5,000 10,000 plants within the next month.
Ralph said a challenge her company has faced so far was waiting to receive the permit and getting the facility up and running, which put them about six weeks behind planting season. She said by opening up the applications now for next year, it will provide applicants plenty of time to get set up before next year’s planting season.
Ralph also said by bringing her company home this year through the program, this multi-billion- dollar industry will benefit the local community.
“Our processing equipment is coming home. We’re spending thousands and thousands of dollars into infrastructure. We’re already now currently employing 18 full-time employees, we’ve got 4 part-time employees and we plan on seeing that number rise drastically over the summer due to this operation here. So, there’s a lot of things going on that now. I’m spending my money in South Carolina, and I’m not having to spend it in Kentucky,” Ralph said.
Palmetto Harmony will open its first retail storefront in Downtown Conway this June.
“Actually, a lot of it was out of necessity, because of security purposes, we don’t want a lot of walk-in traffic out here at the farm and since we’re bringing everything home…we needed to have a place that people can come in and pick up our products and see us personally, even though we have a lot of store fronts all around Myrtle Beach that carry it,” said Ralph. “We picked Conway because a we don’t have anyone carrying our product there, our farm is here, and Conway is a great place to start down in the historic district … in the black water market, and our projected opening date is June 1st.”
Applications for the 2019 pilot program must be completed and postmarked by Friday, June 29th.
To qualify for a permit, applicants must:
- Be a South Carolina resident;
- Pass a state and federal background check administered by the South Carolina law enforcement division;
- Have a signed contract with an industrial hemp manufacturer/processor; and
- Submit GPS coordinates for the land where industrial hemp will be grown.
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