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Bill overhauling state hemp program ready for House vote, but differences with Senate remain

The hemp program has hit several speed bumps since its establishment.

The House is moving forward on a measure that seeks to rework the state’s hemp program, setting it up for a vote before the full House.

House members took up the Senate legislation (SB 1876) Tuesday night. Sen. Bill Montford is sponsoring that bill, which the Senate approved in a unanimous vote Monday.

But an amendment from Rep. Brad Drake will ensure the bill gets sent back to the Senate.

That amendment strikes a provision from the Senate bill stating that licensees “may only use hemp seeds and cultivars certified by a certifying agency or a university conducting an industrial hemp pilot project” pursuant to state law.

The hemp program has hit several speed bumps since its establishment. Drake spoke about the need for the overhaul on the House floor Tuesday.

“Last year, the Legislature created the state hemp program within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) to regulate the cultivation of hemp and hemp products,” Drake explained.

“The bill amends provisions related to the state hemp program primarily to ensure compliance with federal rules and to address concerns that were raised while DACS was engaged in rule making.”

Drake and Rep. Ralph Massullo were behind the House version of the bill (HB 1063).

The bill includes several recommendations by the Department of Agriculture to clarify regulations around the program approved last year.

Montford said the bill added hemp extract to regulated food, provides a method to amend the state plan if needed and offers guidelines regarding THC and hemp extract, including restricting sales to those under the age of 21.

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 in committee as a way to put Florida on the front end of states allowing hemp growth.

In Northwest Florida, hemp growing entered the frame as a way to rebuild the region’s economy following Hurricane Michael. Montford said ensuring that farmers grow federally approved hemp is a priority, and the Legislature should be careful to protect those growers.

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