Hemp farmer arrest sparks questions about state hemp laws

South Carolina News

COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- There are 114 farmers listed on the South Carolina Department of Agriculture’s website as participating in the state’s industrial hemp farming program. It’s an initiative aimed at researching hemp.

Now one of those farmers is facing charges after SCDA made a visit to the farm.

According to a copy of the arrest warrant from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, the Dorchester County farmer was growing hemp on land not authorized for cultivation.

The report lays out the timeline of events. Starting on July 30th, SCDA made a visit to the farm when plants were spotted growing at a location in Harleyville.

A month later samples from the crop confirmed it was hemp.

John Trenton Pendarvis was arrested September 19th for the unlawful cultivation of hemp. A consequence that garnered reaction on social media.

Courtesy of Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office

“When I learned that a farmer who was a licensed hemp grower was arrested for growing hemp that troubled me,” said upstate Representative Jason Elliott.

In 2017 South Carolina lawmakers passed a law allowing selected farmers to grow up to 20 acres of hemp. Participants have to follow strict guidelines on where and how the plant could be cultivated. In March the cap was lifted.

In 2018 Congress also legalized hemp.

But the discrepancy between what’s legal now and what’s not by state or federal guidelines has some lawmakers questioning how to move forward.

Representative Elliott continued, “What I want to look into farmers should be able to grow hemp without overdue burdens put on by the state it looks to me like the current law permitted the Department of Agriculture to regulate this particular farmer’s hemp production.”

SCDA this situation does not “dampen the department’s enthusiasm about the hemp farming program.”

SC Department of Agriculture releases a statement in response to the arrest of John Pendarvis.

The report shows the farmer applied for an amendment to add the land in Harleyville to his plan with the hemp program, but the department denied the request because it was after the plants were found on the property.

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