South Carolina Hemp Farmer Wins Round One Against SLED

John Pendarvis, a Dorchester County hemp farmer, has had one hell of a year. For a farmer who thought 2019 would be smooth sailing, he’s had 10 acres of hemp seized from him and destroyed by state authorities, on top of spending a while in the slammer.

According to authorities, the Harleyville resident was growing hemp in unregistered fields. Initially, Pendarvis had 10 acres of hemp licensed through the S.C. Department of Agriculture. He grew an additional 2 acres of hemp in Marion County without approval, but he submitted an acreage amendment application to include them.

However, upon learning about the additional acreage, State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) agents arrested him this September and charged him with a misdemeanor, making him the first farmer to be charged with violating South Carolina’s new hemp cultivation legislation.

Things took a turn in the farmer’s favor after Circuit Court Judge William Seals Jr. granted him an injunction allowing him to harvest and sell the hemp on the extra 2 acres. The money made from the sale will be put into a trust until Pendarvis’ case is resolved.

His attorney, Patrick J. McLaughlin says that all hemp farmers deserve due process before having their crop taken away. “It’s an important victory because the state has taken the position that all the farmers who participate in growing hemp had waived their due process rights through their growing agreement.”

“The ruling found that they did not. It’s important when they’re talking about making arbitrary decisions like the state going in and seizing someone people’s property,” the attorney added.

The Agriculture Department and SLED argue that Pendarvis didn’t make a mistake but willfully chose to ignore the state’s hemp growing guidelines. According to the Agriculture Department spokeswoman Eva Moore, the Marion County location was nearly 100 miles away from his farm and was being tended by someone who wasn’t on the record.

She says that the ruling doesn’t change the agency’s investigation. “I think the judge is being cautious. They want to get it right and we want to get it right. They want to make sure that the product isn’t destroyed pending a certain outcome in court.”

Judge William Seals Jr. said that the General Assembly did not want to harshly punish South Carolinians who ran afoul of the new law by mistake. “They recognized that the specific allegations being made against the plaintiffs could be mistakes for which participants should be allowed opportunities to correct.”

Hemp is an extremely versatile crop, said to have thousands of uses. The 2018 Farm Bill declassified hemp as a controlled substance, giving farmers in all states and tribes the green light to grow the crop under state and tribal programs.

Bolstered by the popularity of hemp extract cannabidiol ( CBD), a potent and versatile alternative medicine, more and more farmers have been turning to hemp as their cash crop of choice. Pendarvis’ victory is assurance that all these farmers will be able to exercise their due process rights in the still chaotic hemp sector.

Industry watchers agree that the court’s decision giving Pendarvis a temporary reprieve comes as good news to the entire hemp industry, including companies like Lexaria Bioscience Corp. (CSE: LXX) (OTCQX: LXRP) and Marijuana Company of America Inc. (OTCQB: MCOA).

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