A Senate panel took the first step Tuesday toward overhauling the state’s hemp program, which has been marred by a rocky rollout.
The Tallahassee Democrat’s measure would exempt “safe” seeds, as defined by USDA, and synthetic CBD from the definition of hemp extract. And it would add hemp to the Florida Food Safety Act and require small retailers selling hemp products to obtain food permits.
With the proposed smoking and vaping age of 21 working its way through the Legislature, the bill also rolls hemp products into the new restrictions.
Montford touted the plan, which would put Florida on the front end of states allowing hemp growth. The Senate Agriculture Committee gave the bill its unanimous approval.
In Northwest Florida, hemp growing entered the frame as a way to rebuild the region’s economy following Hurricane Michael. But Gulf Breeze Republican Sen. Doug Broxson expressed his hesitation to support the bill with the unknown potential of hemp products and the future of THC.
“I think we’re dipping our toe into something that will have repercussions for generations, and it concerns me,” he said.
Montford said ensuring that farmers grow federally-approved hemp is a priority, and the Legislature should be careful to protect those growers.
“I wouldn’t describe it as Wild West, but this is new territory,” he said. “And I think it’s up to us to make sure we take every step necessary to protect Floridians in this matter.”
Committee Chair Sen. Ben Albritton, a Wauchula Republican, praised Montford for pushing the issue. He said accepting risk now could lead to big payouts down the line.
“I think five years from now, we’re going to end up being happy that we’ve gone down this road the way that we have,” Albritton said.
Republican Reps. Brad Drake and Ralph Massullo‘s companion bill (HB 1063) is slated for a hearing in the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee at noon. Montford’s bill next goes to the Senate Innovation, Industry, and Technology Committee.