Florida hosts ‘hemp rules workshops’ for program input

They’re hard to miss. Retailers all over Southwest Florida sell CBD and hemp products. And hemp is a hot topic this week, as the state holds what it calls “hemp rules workshops.”

We looked at the hemp industry in our area and what these state meetings are set up to accomplish.

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said it wants to get the hemp industry right in our state during its first go-around.

That’s why the department is listening to scientists, farmers, retailers, investors and anyone with an opinion to help create the polices for hemp production in Florida.

Line-by-line, FDAC leaders answered questions and addressed public comment regarding improvements for rules on the incoming hemp industry.

One commenter asked FDAC officials about the addition of an auto renew system on the annual license if growers are producing the same strain, same crop and the same processes on an annual basis. Steven Hall, general counsel for the agriculture department, said that is something that can be considered.

Rules on growing, testing, inspecting, using hemp in foods and animal feeds were all discussed, and the list goes on.

“We understand there’s going to be insecticide, nematodes, mites,” said David Daiker, assistant director of Division of Agricultural Environmental Services. “So I’m going to talk a little bit about what we’re doing today to help you guys out.”

Hemp comes from the plant cannabis sativa, the same plant marijuana comes from. Found in hemp is the chemical CBD, known to help fight pain, symptoms of anxiety and other ailments — all without getting users high.

In May, Florida lawmakers approved SB 1020 to begin a statewide hemp program.

Our investigation in March revealed, without this program in place, it’s technically illegal to sell hemp or CBD in Florida.

MORE: SB 1020: State Hemp Program

“We hope this is something that in a year or two becomes just another agriculture commodity you see as you’re driving down the road,” Hall said.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said hemp could be a $20-$30 billion industry for Florida. And people are eager to jump in on the potential cash crop.

“If anyone has any great ideas, we’d love to hear them,” Hall said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has until July 29 to sign or veto the bill from the state Senate. If approved, it will go into effect July 1.

Fried’s goal is to see crops go in the ground by next year.

The FDAC designed a web page to educate consumers about CBD and hemp. It explains current legality in the state and offers consumers a place to report an bad CBD or hemp products encountered.

The department will hold a total of three hemp rules workshops. More than 300 people showed up to observe and ask questions in Broward County Thursday. Organizers believe more were in Tamp Friday. The final workshop will be held in Tallahassee Monday, June 24.

Anyone who might have becomes sick or suspects a product has been mislabeled can enter information on that page.

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Reporter:Sara Girard
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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