With little discussion and rousing support, the Florida Senate unanimously approved a bill to create a state hemp program Thursday.
"This may be one of the most significant things we do this session," said bill sponsor Sen. Rob Bradley during the afternoon's floor session.
The Fleming Island Republican’s SB 1020 authorizes the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to administer a state hemp program and sets up rulemaking and a board of experts to develop the system.
Hemp, a form of the cannabis plant, contains only trace amounts of THC — the naturally occurring component in marijuana that produces a high — and uses less water and fertilizer to grow. Hemp has been cultivated for approximately 10,000 years, according to the University of Florida’s Industrial Hemp Pilot Project, and can be used for fiber, building materials, animal feed and pain relief.
The 2018 Farm Bill allows a state department of agriculture to submit a plan to the United States Secretary of Agriculture and apply for primary regulatory authority over the production of hemp in their state. The plan, which is required under Bradley’s bill, must include a procedure for tracking land upon which hemp will be produced as well as testing, disposal, enforcement, inspection and certification procedures.
The bill doesn’t allow for Floridians to grow hemp for individual use, which is also not allowed under the federal farm bill.
Bradley’s bill also authorizes the department to oversee the development of pilot projects for the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at UF, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and any university in the state that has an agriculture program.
"This could be and will be game-changing for the agriculture community," he said.
The House version of the bill was read on the floor Tuesday, but has not yet been voted on.