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Growers, users await Gov. DeSantis' signature on hemp bill

How much longer until we can plant?
Posted at 5:40 PM, May 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-23 15:11:55-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Farmers across the state are getting anxious to start growing hemp, but it may yet be awhile.

The governor still needs to sign the bill, which he is expected to do. What would follow is likely months of rule making and public comment as the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services works to figure out how to manage growing in the state.

“If we get through this rule making process, then we’re looking at late into the fall to have a program up and running,” Holly Bell said, the state’s director of cannabis. “I don’t think they’ll be able to plant a crop in the fall here— so, realistically, 2020.”

Bell said interest has been nonstop. She as well as her staff are fielding maybe 100 or more hemp questions from farmers and others, each day.

Passage of the hemp bill has had bipartisan support in the legislature and was pushed by Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. She estimates hemp growing could mean the creation of a multi-billion dollar industry.

“Our farmers have asked for alternative crops,” Fried said in a Wednesday statement. “With this bill, our Department can make those goals a reality and transform our economy.”

At least 24 states grew hemp in some quantity in the last growing season. Bell thinks, with time, Florida could become one of the top producers, like Montana or Colorado.

“I do believe, in a year or two,” she said, “we’re going to be a leader in the country.”

Excitement doesn’t end at the farm. Hemp users are awaiting the change, too.

People like Tallahassee resident Robert Johnson. He had just recently decided to switch from medical marijuana to CBD. It’s a product primarily made from hemp he’ll use to treat his painful neuropathy.

“I would say in ten minutes— it took away everything,” Johnson said. “I’m feeling normal. Functional.”

Johnson may be saving money in the future as growing hemp in Florida means CBD providers will be able to buy locally and pass on the cut in costs.

“Buying it locally is huge,” Joshua Crum said, the owner of a new Tallahassee CBD shop, Your CBD Store. “Not to mention what it would save on shipping costs, but the amount of jobs it will create.”

The hemp bill will also provide regulation and oversight for Florida’s CBD businesses, making sure the products they sell don't exceed federal THC limits-- the substance that gets users high. The state warns CBD products sold in Florida, right now, are “unregulated, untested and without standards on what consumers are putting into their bodies.”