A little over a month before a CBD oil ban goes into effect on Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach, a hemp convention is coming to the Grand Strand.
From Nov. 26 to Nov. 28, the United States Hemp Growers Conference and Expo will be at the Hilton Myrtle Beach Resort after being denied space at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center because of the city’s work to ban the product in a specific stretch of the boulevard.
The Hilton Myrtle Beach Resort isn’t in city limits.
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Hemp, which contains little-to-no levels of THC, the part of cannabis that gives off the effect of feeling high, can be made into products like lotion, cannabidoil — also known as CBD oil — shampoo, conditioner and more.
Hemp education was the reason Melissa Peterson started the business-to-business convention, she said. Her goal with the event is to change the perception surrounding hemp.
“It’s really all about the education,” she said.
In Myrtle Beach, hemp-based products, including the manufacturing and sale of CBD oil, has been a hotly contested issue.
In August, the city passed an overlay district that bans smoke shops, CBD oil and sexually explicit items on Ocean Boulevard between 6th Avenue South to 16th Avenue North.
This summer the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division started testing CBD oil to confirm THC levels are under the legal limit of .3 percent. SLED spokesman Thom Berry said lab results for the tests are not complete.
“We are business-to-business conference that focuses on making sure that CBD producers are following strict guidelines and testing to ensure the safety of their products,” Peterson said about CBD vendors at the event. “Our CBD producers will be allowed to sell to other businesses looking for white labeling or storefronts that want to carry legit, healthy and legal products.”
When the convention was first proposed, Myrtle Beach City Council was discussing the overlay district.
It was because of that ongoing conversation that Myrtle Beach City Manager John Pedersen told the convention center director not to move forward with the event, he said.
“The city council at that time was considering the overlay and certainly had thought it looked inappropriate for us to take an action that would have said that those merchants couldn’t sell it but we could benefit from the sale,” Pedersen said.
The hemp growers convention originally started in Wisconsin in February. Peterson said she worked with the Department of Agriculture after a pilot program started in 2014 allowing farmers to grow hemp.
“We got asked to bring [the convention] to Albany, New York, and then we were asked to come to Myrtle Beach,” Peterson said.
In South Carolina, 20 farmers were selected by the Department of Agriculture to participate in the industrial hemp pilot program. According to the S.C. Department of Agriculture website, the goal of the program is to increase crop diversity in the state.
Horry County has one hemp farmer, Janel Ralph, who owns Palmetto Harmony, a store that manufactures and sells CBD oil.
Ralph is scheduled to speak at the conference, and attendees will have the opportunity to tour her farm and storefront.
Tickets can be purchased at ushempexpos.com. According to the website, a three-day field and conference pass costs $595. A VIP two-day event pass costs $395, a two-day event pass costs $295 and trade show pass costs $50.
On Nov. 25, several association speakers are set to talk, including Colleen Keahey, executive director of the Hemp Industries Association, Lucas Snyder, executive director of the South Carolina Hemp Farmers Association, and Eric Streenstra, president of Vote Hemp, an advocacy group.
Throughout the weekend, different sessions will take place, such as sessions with South Carolina hemp growers and influencers, how to reintegrate hemp back into the economy, a legal panel, how to plant and grow hemp and lab testing.
A full list of speakers and events can be found online at ushempexpos.com.