The year was 2016. Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera was one of a group of viable GOP candidates for Senate.
He wasn’t a shoo-in. U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis and David Jolly were both in the mix for Sen. Marco Rubio‘s seat.
None of that lasted. Rubio, a non-starter in the Presidential race, ran for and won Senate reelection.
And Lopez-Cantera remained as Lieutenant Governor through 2018, sitting out the election cycle, but reemerging this week, as President of the Hemp Industries Association of Florida.
Hemp is months away from being planted under the aegis of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The industry is expected to be big business, with 3,000 farmers approved to plant in the initial wave of permits.
And while Lopez-Cantera doesn’t rule out another run for office, such as Miami-Dade Mayor in 2020 (“Never say never,” he urged), for now, he represents a high-profile advocate for industrial hemp.
“I had learned about the [change in] the federal law earlier this summer,” Lopez-Cantera said, regarding the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, which legalized the commodity.
The federal legalization created a domino effect, leading to the state passing an industrial hemp program unanimously in both houses earlier this year. Florida’s program is still involved in rule-making.
Through a contact at Greenburg Traurig, the former LG was hooked up with the HIAF, which was “looking for someone to help educate the leaders in the state, federal and local levels, about the new law, the difference between hemp and marijuana.”
“They look alike,” Lopez-Cantera stressed, “but chemically they’re different.”
“Hemp doesn’t have THC … it has .3 percent,” the former LG said. “You can smoke a whole acre of it, and it wouldn’t get you … wouldn’t have the same effect as marijuana.”
Lopez-Cantera lauded the “quite numerous” industrial uses.
“You can make 25,000 things out of this plant,” he said. “It’s a green product, a renewable product … could be a lifesaver for the citrus farmers and the avocado farmers.”
As both LG and Property Appraiser, Lopez-Cantera (who has farmers in his family) talked to farmers, and he is excited about hemp’s potential.
“My family’s had a farm in South Dade,” he noted.
Lopez-Cantera noted an advantage he has talking to pols.
“No interpreter is needed. There’s credibility because there’s relationships and relationships are important,” he said.
“Maybe [conversations] are more efficient, knowing how the process works. My job isn’t going to be to lobby, though, but to educate. Somebody who represents a growing industry in this state with the possibility to save lives,” he said.