JJ Coombs: A plea for conservatives to act conservatively
Check the labels and shopkeeps; Wilton Simpson isn't playing around.

Marijuana leaves in a toy shopping cart on a colorful neon background
Now is the time to do the right thing for the Florida workers.

It’s a strange place to be when an entirely legal industry that is already well-regulated by the state is being targeted for a slow death — and even stranger when the call sounds like it’s coming from inside the house.

Some 100,000 Floridians’ livelihoods depend directly on our state’s safe and legal industry. Legislation proposing unnecessary restrictions on our industry is speeding through the Legislature — seemingly with a good bit of help from agriculture officials. At this rate, Gov. Ron DeSantis may be our only hope of warding off attempts to cast our industry aside in order to appease the deep pockets of Florida’s medical marijuana industry. But there is still time for our legislature to change course.

Previously established under the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Florida Hemp Program provided a new agricultural income source for hardworking Florida farmers, business owners, manufacturers, and retailers. However, one of the top supporters of the proposed legislation in every committee has been the Department of Agriculture.

I imagined the state’s top agriculture official would champion a multibillion-dollar agricultural commodity and continue to support our hard work. I thought that diligently following all the legal requirements would mean I could expect to continue lawfully providing for my family. But if this legislation passes, years of blood, sweat, and tears will be answered by the state redefining hemp, outlawing safe and legal products, and rewriting the rules of the game.

Last year, the Legislature listened to our concerns and crafted an excellent product to ensure that hemp products are kept out of children’s hands and are only purchased by adults who are at least 21. So why is this very same Legislature back with ideas that were rejected last year? The real issue is THC caps were stripped out of last year’s law, and so the medical marijuana interests are back once again trying to devastate our hemp industry.

It seems like the medical marijuana industry wants to grab as big a market share of any and all cannabis products as possible before Florida voters have a chance to approve recreational marijuana, and the hemp industry is paying the price. These large medical marijuana companies are already able to sell hemp products — but as they say, the best way to beat the competition is to eliminate the competition. The worst part is that some respected elected officials are doing their bidding.

This legislation has received strong and loud opposition from the hemp industry, and those who responsibly use hemp products, throughout the entire process. Florida Politics even posted a survey that showed less than one-third of Florida voters support bans on several currently legal hemp products that are only available to customers over the age of 21.

The Legislature still has time to stand with Florida’s hemp industry and the majority of Florida voters who are against the hemp product bans in the proposed legislation. Now is the time to do the right thing for the Florida workers.

Let’s keep Florida the national model for free market and competition rather than picking winners and losers and supporting monopolies. Like me, the 100,000-plus members of the hemp industry are just trying to make an honest living in Florida’s lawful hemp industry, but this legislation will make that almost impossible. I hope the Florida Legislature will snap out of it and get back to fighting for hardworking Floridians.


JJ Coombs is the co-founder and CEO of several lawful Florida hemp product businesses. He received his Pharm. D from the University of Colorado.

Guest Author

One comment

  • PeterH

    March 4, 2024 at 6:41 pm

    Free market capitalism, preventing Russian takeover of Eastern Europe, and women’s healthcare freedom is not advanced by today’s GOP. For some odd reason the author is confusing Conservative policies with today’s Republican policies. There is a huge difference!

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