The unofficial April 20 holiday (known as 420) celebrating the cannabis plant is not just for stoners anymore.
The image of the tie-dye-wearing, peace-sign-sporting, burnt-out hippie of the 1960s endures in pop culture through movies and Halloween costumes — but the reality of the cannabis-using demographic has changed dramatically.
That’s because cannabis includes a legal crop in South Carolina — hemp, from which CBD and other cannabinoids are derived. As more U.S. states legalize the marijuana variety of the cannabis plant for medical and recreational use, the stale stigma around cannabis left over from the days of Reefer Madness is slowly dissipating like thick smoke into thin air.
“People from all walks of life partake in [legal] cannabis, whether it be for recreational or medicinal uses,” said Amy Ballew, who works at Smoke ‘N Brew on James Island. “I’ve met so many people [who use cannabis], from millionaires that live on Kiawah Island to people that just couch surf. It has a place in a lot of people’s lives.”
Hemp and marijuana are two varieties of cannabis. Hemp has low THC content (a psychoactive compound that produces the feeling of being “high”), while marijuana has a high THC content. In South Carolina, marijuana is illegal — though the S.C. House and Senate are, once again, considering three medical marijuana bills.
Hemp, however, is completely legal. And, it contains many cannabinoids (compounds) aside from THC, including CBD, a non-psychoactive compound, which is known to reduce inflammation, induce relaxation, calm seizures and more.
More than 100 different cannabinoid compounds exist in the cannabis plant, but CBD, Delta-8 and Delta-9 are three cannabinoids you’ve likely heard of in recent years. (Check out our glossary below for a more in-depth explanation of these terms.)
These compounds are derived from hemp and offer South Carolinians a way to explore this alternative source of relief — and celebrate 420 legally.
A new kind of celebration
Though no one knows the true origin of how 420 became code for cannabis, there are many rumors and tales.
The most widely accepted story of 420 involves a group of high school friends in San Rafael, California, in the 1970s, who called themselves “the Waldos.” They picked 4:20 p.m. as an arbitrary time to meet after school, before their parents got home, so they could, ahem, “celebrate.”
One of the Waldos became a roadie for the Grateful Dead, which took the slang term in stride and further popularized it. In December 1990, a journalist for High Times magazine was given a flyer at a Grateful Dead concert in Oakland inviting people to “420” at 4:20 p.m. on 4/20 — perhaps the first celebration of its kind.
Today, “420” is blazed across T-shirts in cheesy souvenir shops. It’s used in online dating profiles (“420-friendly”) to signify to potential romantic partners that you’re cool with cannabis. It was even included in the name of California Senate Bill 420, a piece of legislation related to cannabis regulation.
And of course, it’s celebrated across the country on April 20 every year. But over time, the celebration has become less of a counterculture, middle-finger-to-the-man event and more of an opportunity to celebrate cannabis culture and spread awareness.
“It’s a celebration of the plant and understanding its value,” said Matt Skinner, owner of Charleston Hemp Collective. “Yes, there is a recreational side to the hemp plant, but it also gives us a wonderful opportunity to bring music to the table, celebrate what [cannabis] stands for and educate people on the plant and what we can legally do in South Carolina.”
Charleston Hemp Collective hosted a 420 Charleston event last year at Holy City Brewing that Skinner said was very successful, and he looks forward to bringing it back in the future.
This year, several 420 events will take place around town. Smoke ‘N Brew is hosting its fourth annual customer appreciation party from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. with storewide discounts and giveaways as well as live music from Bonghi, glassblowing demonstrations, vendors, and free catered food.
“We really want to throw a party for our regular customers because we appreciate them,” said David Robinson, Smoke ‘N Brew manager. “And, we want to educate the people on [cannabis] and how it can help people.”
The Pour House on James Island welcomes music lovers and the cannabis-curious to its 4/20 Champagne & Reefer Party hosted by the band Kendall Street Company, which will play two sets of classics and covers.
The proliferation of 420 events and the use of hemp-products speaks to the state of cannabis in South Carolina. People are more open and interested in exploring how this plant can be used — as are businesses.
In 2022, Skinner and his team dropped CBD seltzers and Delta-8 seltzers called High Rise, which will play a prevalent role in its 420 Charleston event. It will be offered as a welcoming party treat and available for purchase as a float with locally made ice cream.
“Something happened when we dropped the beverage,” Skinner said. “People who normally would not come into [a CBD shop] suddenly opened up — everyone opened up about it, because now it was in every bar and restaurant. That’s just a big change that’s happened in Charleston this year.”
Increased access to hemp-derived products, particularly ones that do not require smoking, may play a role in its wider social acceptance, advocates say.
Liam Becker of Folly Beach launched Levity, a nonalcoholic Delta-9 spirit, in February with his two friends John Berdux and Stephen Dudose.
“Most of the cannabis beverages are sold in a ready-to-drink, or canned, format. Producing a nonalcoholic cannabis spirit that allows [for] a limitless combination of unique cocktails really helps separate us,” Becker said.
Each fluid ounce of Levity’s take on a tequila, Agave High Water, has two milligrams of Delta-9 THC and two milligrams of CBG, he said. The team carefully considered the amount of Delta-9 going into one drink as the company wanted people to enjoy multiple mocktails without the effects being too intense.
“It’s an approachable product,” Becker said. “We have Levity in some stores that attract a different market who wouldn’t necessarily go into a head shop, but they carry Levity, and they’re doing well with it.”
The nonalcoholic spirit offers people a way to socialize without drinking alcohol, but Becker said it’s particularly special because its patented formula allows your body to break it down in the same timeframe as alcohol so it’s early onset, early offset.
Skinner, too, hopes to revolutionize the world of cannabis and alternative spirits with the opening of Charleston Hemp Collective’s James Island location in June, which will have the state’s first ever dry cannabis bar. Located next to the Pour House, the dry bar will feature nonalcoholic cocktails made with High Rise seltzer.
For some people, expanded access to hemp-derived products such as High Rise and Levity, is a great alternative way to socialize without alcohol. For others, Delta-8 and Delta-9 products offer a recreational benefit. And still, for others, CBD and other cannabinoids can offer profound relief.
“You are born with an endocannabinoid system, so you have all the receptors for your body to do what it needs to do with everything you get from CBD,” Ballew said.
Increased use has led to increased research into CBD and other cannabinoids’ impacts on our bodies. Hemp products are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, therefore they cannot be marketed around health-based claims, but countless first-hand accounts from customers offer stories of CBD’s incredible impacts — easing arthritis pain, combating anxiety and reducing PTSD symptoms.
“Once you start talking to people about it more, they’re a little bit more open. I had to be very consistent with my grandma, but now her opinion has 100% changed, and I actually bring her CBD tinctures and topicals when I go see her,” Ballew said
Ballew said she was able to replace six pharmaceutical prescriptions with hemp-derived products.
“I felt horrible every day. I was eating a handful of pills for breakfast, and nobody should have to live like that. It’s so great to have a natural option that can replace [in some cases] almost everything.”
Please toke responsibly: Tips for safe, legal cannabis use
Though marijuana is illegal in the state of South Carolina, hemp-derived products — such as CBD and Delta-9 — are not. If you’re going to try these products, please keep these safety tips in mind:
Comfortable place. “Set and setting is really important for a lot of people the first time they try it,” said Amy Ballew, a sales associate at Smoke ‘N Brew. She recommends first-timers try hemp products somewhere they feel comfortable. “If you’re in the wrong environment, you’re going to have a totally different experience.” If you want to test out a new product while staying close to the experts, check out the outdoor back patio at Smoke ‘N Brew on James Island with pool tables, a stage for music and a small bar.
Don’t take too much the first time. Ballew recommends trying half of a 25 mg Delta-8 gummy and waiting two hours to gauge its effects. “You can always take more, but you can never take less,” she said.
Don’t always ask for the strongest stuff. Knowledgeable CBD shop workers can guide you to a product and strand best suited for your needs.
Purchase responsibly. A lack of regulation makes the market susceptible to counterfeit and low-quality products. Always purchase from a reputable shop that specializes in cannabis products.
Consumption warning. There are no clear guidelines on whether consuming CBD or Delta-8 is permitted in public. Hemp-derived flower looks and smells similar to marijuana. To avoid confusion, refrain from smoking any legal products in public that could be misconstrued for something illegal.
Get ready for your 420 with these local products
I Heart CBD offers a wide range of CBD and Delta-8 products including tinctures, edibles, flowers, topicals and more. I Heart CBD opened as the first CBD retail store in the state in 2018 and now has six locations in the Lowcountry. All of its products are USDA-certified organic.
Charleston Hemp Collective also sells a range of products, including items such as Delta-8 Bloody Mary mix and oyster mignonette. Owner Matt Skinner also offers CBD and Delta-8 and -9 seltzers through his company High Rise Beverage Company.
Catch “a buzz without the booze” with a bottle of Delta-9 THC-infused Levity, formulated in partnership with Senes Technology to have a fast-acting effect. Purchase it in stores or find a restaurant in town serving up Levity mocktails like Herd Provisions, Bar George, Chico Feo and more. Check out DrinkLevity.com for a store locator.
Lowcountry Gold grows its USDA-certified organic hemp on a 117-acre farm in Elloree, then processes it to create hemp oil products including tinctures, balm, lotion and gummies. Owner Dave Douglass said his company’s solvent-free process is a bit different, using only the flower from the hemp plant (his analogy was using only the orange and not the whole orange tree), which he said creates a cleaner product. Find Lowcountry Gold products in some retail stores and online at LowcountryGold.com.
Local hemp company Cotton Patch Hemp, founded by two sisters, offers gummies, tinctures, flower and hemp flower prerolls. Find its products at Smoke ‘N Brew, Eucalyptus Wellness and Elixir Bar, Lunar Light Botanicals and online at cottonpatchhemp.com.
Local glassblowing artist Autumn Ellison creates unique pipes, pendants and custom pieces through her company Autumn’s Heady Glass, soon to be called Nomadic Glass. Ellison also teaches one- or two-person glass blowing classes out of her home studio in West Ashley. Check out her work or inquire about classes by finding her on Instagram @autumnsheadyglass
or on Facebook.
Methods of Consumption Glossary
Newbies may assume the only way to ingest CBD or Delta-8 is through smoking, but that is far from the case these days. Here are the most common methods of consumption:
Tincture – a liquid herbal extract created by binding CBD to alcohol (tinctures are non-alcoholic products). Tinctures use a dropper to administer doses.
Edible – food and drink items infused with CBD or Delta-8, including seltzers, olive oil, gummies, even Bloody Mary mix.
Topical – a cream applied to the skin. This type of CBD product is often used for muscle pain, inflammation and skin conditions.
Flower – Hemp in its raw, plant form. The CBD and Delta-8 flower look similar to marijuana, but the buds come from the hemp plant. This product can be grinded and smoked.
Vape – an electronic smoking device that vaporizes CBD or Delta-8 oil. This is considered one of the quickest delivery methods.
The long list of acronyms and terms associated with cannabis can make understanding the plant complicated. We offer this abbreviated glossary as a reference guide to understanding some of the more common parts of cannabis.
Cannabis – a genus flowering plant that is often broken down into three different species variations: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica and Cannabis ruderalis.
Marijuana – a slang term for a variety of the cannabis plant cultivated with high levels of the compound THC.
Hemp – another variety of the cannabis plant grown with higher levels of CBD and less than 0.3% THC.
Cannabinoid – compounds found in cannabis plants, including THC, CBD, Delta-8 THC, CBG and more.
Cannabidiol (or CBD) – the full name for the non-psychoactive compound CBD.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC) – a psychoactive compound found in cannabis that is mainly responsible for causing feelings of being “high.” This compound is also known as Delta-9 THC.
Delta-8 THC – another psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant that can create a similar feeling of “being high” though less intensely than Delta-9 THC.
Endocannabinoid System – a naturally occurring system found in humans, animals and even types of mushrooms that regulates the functions of all other systems in the body, such as the nervous system. Scientists discovered the endocannabinoid system is only active when cannabinoids (compounds found in cannabis) enter the body’s system. The body also creates its own compounds that seem to mimic many of the same compounds found in cannabis.
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