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Hemp grow permits to be pushed back weeks, as feds review state rules

No grow permits until feds greenlight state rules.

Hemp and citrus were on the menu in the Senate Agriculture Committee, the panel’s last meeting before Session begins next month.

A progress report was offered on hemp rule-making (with a draft copy pushed forth in October).

As the Committee weeks began early in the fall, hope was that cultivation rules would be in place as soon as next month. However, that’s not happening.

State Cannabis Director Holly Bell described a rule-making process complicated by the Oct. 31 USDA release of federal hemp rules.

Some rules will be ready in a matter of weeks.

Florida’s hemp seed, food safety, and animal feed rules will go into effect Jan. 1.

Cultivation rules, meanwhile, “presented a problem.” The feds want third-party contractors to monitor testing, and new rules are pending submission for D.C. approval.

“What that’s going to mean is issuing grow permits … the nonalignment has slowed us down four weeks,” Bell said.

Pilot programs with partners, such as those under the auspices of Florida A&M University, are already underway with Sunshine Hemp of St. Cloud, Florida; Green Earth Cannaceuticals, of Newberry, Florida; and Future Farm Technologies of Vancouver, British Columbia.

Green Earth’s Scott Burgett urged people to learn farming and the plant before investing, suggesting that a January grow would be a dumb move in any case.

“I’ve got farmers who want to do a thousand acres next year. I tell them that would be foolish,” Burgett advised, noting that hemp is more regulated even than medical cannabis, which he also grows.

Burgett urged farmers to wait until March to plant.

Lobbyist Jeff Sharkey, a partner in Sunshine Hemp, described an “almost irrational exuberance” in the hemp sector.

“Seed genetics” are key to the “solution for Florida’s farmers … the fundamental important piece.”

Hemp has been extolled as a potential savior for Florida agriculture, in the wake of citrus woes stretching back years.

Florida Cannabis Director Holly Bell earlier this year predicted some 8,000 applications for cultivation permits. She expects some 3,000 farm operations to qualify.

However, that qualification will be delayed to at least some degree.

Sen. George Gainer wondered why specifics couldn’t be offered as to what was the right plant to grow.

“We’re kind of going through a period now where it’s ‘more of the same,’ and it’s a letdown,” Gainer said, offering to help “get this thing going.”

“We see challenges on the horizon,” Bell said, defending the decision to “slow this down.”

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at

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