On Wednesday, a Senate panel approved a bill that would create a state hemp program overseen by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The Committee on Innovation, Industry, and Technology was the first of three committee stops for the legislation, which moves on to Agriculture, then Rules.
Industrial hemp has a negligible amount of THC. Universities in the state, such as Florida A&M, are researching to rediscover the fiber’s uses.
Bill sponsor Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican and committee member, noted that “hemp doesn’t make you high.”
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has prioritized hemp and cannabis as potential ways forward for the state.
“She’s taken a great interest in this,” Bradley noted. “We want to see what the Commissioner and her office sees as the challenges.”
Rule-making processes, similar to those on medical cannabis, will address issues like acreage and grower regulations.
Don’t expect homegrown hemp, though.
“People aren’t going to be growing hemp in their yards,” Bradley said, saying this will be an “agricultural product” from an “emerging industry.”
Some commenters noted that there is no reason to ban homegrowers, a move that would protect commercial operators.
Hemp has federal momentum; the farm bill that became law a few months back removed hemp from the list of controlled substances.
“Recently the federal government actually did something,” Bradley marveled. “There are a lot of things the federal government should be doing.”
Among them: moving cannabis off Schedule 1, the Senator said.
Bradley’s bill would conform statute with federal law, allowing hemp to ramp up and fill the void in other areas, ranging from storm damage to citrus greening.
The bill also moves hemp off Schedule 1 on the state level.
“This is going to be a work in progress,” Bradley noted, regarding conforming with the House version.
Explicit decriminalization of hemp on the state level, Bradley added, should be in the bill.
Activities such as selling hemp-derived CBD oil right now are problematic, Bradley said, given the lack of state oversight and legal clarity.
“That’s a part of this discussion,” Bradley said.
The bill has bipartisan backing.
“Hemp is an amazing plant,” asserted Sen. Gary Farmer, who noted that hemp was only made Schedule 1 after pressure from the nylon industry last century.
“I believe that we can make hemp great again,” Farmer joked.