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Gov. DeSantis signs bill to create state hemp program

Unanimous support in the Legislature

Gov. Ron DeSantis closed out Tuesday signing a raft of 15 bills, including legislation authorizing a state hemp program.

SB 1020, which creates an industrial hemp program under the auspices of the state’s Department of Agriculture, cleared the Senate and House by unanimous votes this Session.

The bill, sponsored by Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, would allow the Department to administer regulations regarding licensing and cultivation of hemp, the THC-deficient cousin of marijuana.

The 2018 federal Farm Bill allows states to establish hemp programs such as the one contemplated in current legislation, as the federal rulemaking process could take years. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried believes hemp could be the boost the state’s farm sector and rural areas need.

“Tonight’s hemp bill signing marks a transformation in Florida, and a critical step on the journey to creating a green industrial revolution, strengthening agriculture with an alternative crop of the future, and expanding access to safe, quality CBD products,” she said in a statement.

In February, Fried appointed Holly Bell as Florida’s first Director of Cannabis to oversee the department’s hemp program.

“For months, our Department has been developing rules and gathering public input, and we’re hitting the ground running to build a state hemp program that will be a model for the country. Florida has the potential to become the gold standard on hemp — our deep agricultural heritage, climate and resources, and farming infrastructure will make Florida a national leader in this emerging new economy.

“Congratulations to Sen. Bradley and Rep. Ralph Massullo (the House sponsor) for their hard work, diligence, and collaboration, and to the Legislature to helping move this across the finish line. Together, we will keep Florida growing.”

In addition to industry regulations, the bill also establishes a structure to ensure the purity and compliance of cultivated product for the protection of consumers.

Eyeing a “potentially lucrative future,” one “game changing” for the agricultural community, Bradley lauded this program as giving Florida a “head start against the rest of the country.”

“Put that effort on steroids,” Bradley urged on the Senate floor. “Give farmers an opportunity to reinvent efforts.”

A hemp bill “may be one of the most significant things we do this session,” Bradley added, allowing Florida “to become a hemp state.”

Indeed, with unanimous bipartisan support, the Sunshine State is on its way to becoming the hempen peninsula. The hemp legislation gives Fried more legal standing during her promised “crackdown” on hemp products outside the system.

Fried expects that crops could be planted this year. And not a moment too soon for a multi-billion dollar industry.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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