SC politics: Hemp, beer? Another day at the SC Legislature

February 27, 2014 

Senate panel OKs growing (industrial) hemp

What is it about hemp that makes people silly? Even industrial hemp, and even state senators in a committee hearing.

The state Senate’s Agricultural and Natural Resources committee Thursday took up a bill that would allow S.C. farmers to grow industrial hemp, a variation that doesn’t have the potent levels of tetrahydrocannabinol of hemp plants grown for marijuana production.

The bill, S.839, passed the committee unanimously and moved on to the Senate floor, but not until the committee members had a few giggles.

“This bill got my attention based on my prior experience with other forms of hemp,” said Sen. Greg Hembree, hesitating just enough to get a reaction from his fellow senators, “not actually inhaling it but prosecuting others that had.”

Hembree, R-Horry, is a former 15th Circuit solicitor.

Later, Hembree said he heard from colleagues after he spoke in favor of the bill at a subcommittee meeting the previous week. “They said I would now be considered Sen. Snoop Dogg, but I’m not going to accept that.”

Sen. Paul Campbell, R-Berkeley, noted the bill is really about giving farmers another cash crop option.

“This has been referred to as ‘rope not dope, jobs not joints,’ ” Campbell said.

Darlington Raceway seeks permanent alcohol license

A bill has been introduced in the S.C. House to allow Darlington Raceway to sell beer and wine any time the track holds an event.

Currently, the racetrack has to apply for a temporary permit to sell alcohol each time it hosts an event.

One of the sponsors of the bill, state Rep. Jay Lucas, said the state Department of Revenue shouldn’t have to run a new background check and do paperwork every time the track wants to sell alcohol.

“They get it, but that’s a lot of time and work,” said Lucas, R-Hartsville.

Issuing a permanent beer and wine license to Darlington Raceway would help the track stay competitive, Lucas said. “This bill will give them more control over alcohol consumption at the track, too. We need to make sure the track stays competitive with other tracks in the area.”

Darlington Raceway officials say they want to hold concerts and other events. The track’s NASCAR races are scheduled for April 11 and April 12.

Joey Holleman and the Associated Press contributed

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