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HARLEYVILLE, S.C. — After Hurricane Dorian battered his farm in September, John Trenton Pendarvis faced a costly decision. Dorian’s winds had blasted the hemp he had planted in early summer. On one particular 10-acre field and its nearly mature crop, he had already spent over $75,000 for licensing, seeds and labor — a sum that he hoped to recoup by selling the post-harvest hemp oil and flowers for several million dollars.
But the flattened plants were not his only problem. Because of water issues, he had used acreage not officially permitted for hemp by the state agriculture department. He called the agency to ask whether he should hire a crew to manually prop up the 25,000 plants. “They said, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing,’ ” he remembers.
He got a different response several days later when a phalanx of law enforcement officers arrived, handcuffing and arresting him for illegal hemp cultivation, then bulldozing his crop. “It must have been 30 of them coming from everywhere,” Pendarvis said recently, surveying the crushed remains on his farm northwest of Charleston. “Now it’s just all rotted up.”