For years, innovators, processors, and farmers across the state of Florida have been waiting for a green light considering the legality of hemp. Some intended to return to century-old family land in order to farm again.
They had just been waiting for the hemp growing program to receive an approval from the government. Their wishes were granted after the Florida legislature sanctioned a bill that authorizes the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to create a state hemp program.
The senate voted in a unanimous manner to pass the bill. Everybody except Rep. James Bush voted in favor of the bill. Bob Clayton, who has played a major part in writing the hemp legislation, is hopeful that locally grown hemp in Florida can now be utilized for innovative purposes.
The push for hemp program has been largely due to the “green rush” of financial opportunity sensed by many.
Make way for hemp innovation
The state of Florida is trying to take advantage of the federal law passed in 2018 that legalized industrial hemp.
With hemp finding its place in numerous products in research, industry supporters believe that it could prove to be a boon for the state. This would provide a new crop to the Northwest Florida farmers who sustained heavy damage incurred due to Hurricane Michael.
The bill will make way for a hemp program in the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services led by Commissioner Nikki Fried, who has been a major cannabis advocate.
The bill would provide a regulatory framework that covers licenses for businesses or people who wish to grown hemp. Fried stated that, “Florida is now on the verge of creating a multibillion dollar industry.” Nikki Fried has offered vocal support for hemp and medical marijuana that has brought her sizable media attention.
The agriculture department will have to submit a plan to apply for regulatory authority over hemp production. The plan needs to cover certification methods, testing procedures, corrective actions and inspection plans for farmers. It would however still be illegal to be in possession of hemp until July 1. Permits will be awarded after August 1 once the rulemaking commences.
The current scenario in Florida
The University of Florida developed a two-year pilot program that has been housed on three sites across Florida since the Farm Bill of 2014. The researchers are currently studying the risk of hemp plants and identification of hemp varieties suitable as per Florida’s weather conditions.
Researchers have proven that hemp can successfully adapt to growing conditions prevalent in Florida.
25,000 uses of the hemp plant have been recorded until now as per congressional research reports. Hemp sales in the US amounted to $700 million in 2016 alone.
Over 30 countries in South and North America, Asia and Europe permit farmers to grow hemp legally. Currently, the hemp market is largely dependent on imports into the US.
Green rush coming?
As per the National Conference of State Legislatures, about 38 states are considering legalizing industrial hemp. Businesses have massive plans to invest heavily to bring about a hemp revolution in the market.
According to Brightfield Group, a cannabis analytics company, the industrial hemp market would be worth more than $20 billion by the year 2022.
Officials supervising the Florida A&M University’s research program have announced that they would be working with three companies- Future Farm Technologies, Green Earth Cannaceuticals and Sunshine Hemp to study its applications.