PENDLETON, S.C. (WSPA)- More hemp farmers in South Carolina have been approved for the 2019 growing season, bringing the total to 114. Quite a few of them are in the Upstate.
Hemp is legal, but there are a lot of restrictions on it. Right now, it has to be regulated under state-mandated programs.
Hemp is related to marijuana, but it only contains trace amounts of THC, which is the component in marijuana that gets people high.
Tom Garrison is a fourth generation farmer. He’s among 114 farmers treading new ground with a crop that was just legalized on a large scale last year: hemp.
“I’m always open for new opportunities,” Garrison said. “I fall into the footsteps of my dad. He was always looking to be an entrepreneur and try something new.”
Garrison has just under 20 acres of the crop right now. He sells it to make CBD oil, which people use to ease issues like chronic pain and anxiety. He said the crop also has potential for its fiber to be used to strengthen substances such as concrete and even car parts.
He said right now, the hemp industry is like the “Wild Wild West.”
“I’ve never grown a crop that was more interesting and educational and difficult and uncertain as this crop,” Garrison said.
He said he hopes there is more oversight in the industry at the state and federal levels.
“The products produced if FDA gets involved, they’ll be regulated,” Garrison said. “There won’t be snake oil running around like there is now on the street.”
If the government offers more oversight in the industry, he sees a lot of opportunities with hemp, especially as other crops aren’t making money like they used to.
He said if the hemp industry develops past the “Wild West” days, it would not only be an economic boost, but also an incentive for young people to return to the land.
“Agriculture is the backbone of South Carolina,” he said. “If we want young people to continue this, we got to give them the opportunity to come back to farm and where they can be profitable.”
To grow hemp in the state, farmers need to pass background checks and go to an orientation.
The South Carolina Department of Agriculture’s hemp program started last year with 20 approved farmers.