1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

Florida lawmakers support these hemp bills

The bills allow licensed hemp growers to use any seeds deemed safe by the United States Department of Agriculture.
Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee. [PHIL SEARS  |  AP]
Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee. [PHIL SEARS | AP]
Published Feb. 4

TALLAHASSEE -- Two bills that aim to fix “glitches” in the state hemp program passed their first committee stops unanimously Tuesday.

The bills allow licensed hemp growers to use any seeds deemed safe by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, clarify that hemp products must be properly packaged and labeled and require that licensees who break rules while distributing or selling hemp extract complete corrective action plans.

The Senate version also includes a provision that restricts sales of inhaled products like CBD joints to people under 21.

The CBD compound, unlike its psychoactive sister THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), won’t get users high but has been anecdotally reported to have calming and anti-inflammatory effects. CBD is extracted from the hemp plant.

In 2019, the Legislature passed a law creating the state hemp program within the Department of Agriculture to regulate the cultivation of hemp in the state. Those seeking to grow hemp have to apply with the department for a license, the first of which are expected to be available in March.

The program provides that future growers only use hemp seeds and cultivars certified by a certifying agency or a university conducting a hemp pilot project, a provision that would be undone by the set of bills.

The legislation is sponsored by Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, in the Senate and Rep. Brad Drake, R-Eucheeanna, and Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto, in the House.

In the Senate Agriculture Committee on Tuesday morning, Montford said the bill is both cautious regarding the nascent industry but also supportive of farmers like those in the Panhandle who lost timber farms in Hurricane Michael.

“I’d rather be too cautious than open the door and regret it down the road,” he said. “Especially at the expense of farmers ... hemp could be the savior of the economy in North Florida. “

In the Senate, there was some hesitation over writing legislation while hemp is still “an unknown frontier.”

“I think we’re dipping our toe into something that will have repercussions for generations,” said Sen. Doug Broxson, R-Gulf Breeze, who voted yes on the bill. “This concerns me. I pray that we move in such a way that we protect future generations.”

The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee, which heard the bill later in the day, also voted unanimously for the bill.

Drake said he hopes the bill gives consumers faith that the products they purchase, sell or consume are backed by Florida law.

“With new technology or a new industry, there are always things that need to be worked out,” he said. “As Floridians, we have begun that journey.”

Drake said by allowing farmers to use different types of hemp seeds aside from certified seeds, the bill also breaks down a barrier for Floridians to enter the market.

“We want to make sure those who have an interest in pursuing this, we would not stifle their entrepreneurial efforts,” said Drake, whose district encompasses a rural, agriculture-dependent part of the state. “I know I have a lot of constituents who would be good hemp growers.”

The House version of the bill, unlike the Senate version, requires that the Industrial Hemp Advisory Council, appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis would serve as the sole advisory group on the topic.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried oversees her own Hemp Advisory Committee, which would become moot under the bill.

Taylor Biehl, of the Florida Hemp Association, said the bill addresses some concerns that have come up with the Department of Agriculture, like whether the agency has the authority to regulate inhalation products like CBD joints.

He added, however, that the 21 age requirement for smoking hemp and CBD is “ironic,” given the marketing of hemp products as an alternative to nicotine. He predicted hemp will eclipse tobacco in popularity in the next five years.

“[Hemp] is medicinal in nature and far less harmful to the lungs and the body,” he said.

Melissa Villar, of marijuana advocacy group NORML Tallahassee, said the restriction on inhalation products is “an overreach.”

“Federal government has limited 21-plus to nicotine products,” she noted .”We oppose any kind of limit on inhalation to 21 and up. But we don’t oppose the department’s oversight.”


  1. In this Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2004, file photo, Tiffany Carr, executive director of Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, left, speaks at a news conference held by Gov. Jeb Bush, background right, to announce a public awareness campaign designed to prevent disaster-related domestic violence, in Tallahassee. On Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered an investigation into a nonprofit domestic abuse agency whose CEO, Carr, had received $7.5 million in compensation over a three-year span. Subpoenas have now been issued. (AP Photo/Phil Coale, File)
  2. John MacIver, Gov. Ron DeSantis' pick to be the chief judge of the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings.
  3. Linda Hadley, 57, from St. Petersburg, shows off her "I registered to vote today" sticker after filling out her paper work and registering to vote for her very first time at the Pinellas County Election Services, 501 1st Ave N, on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020 in St. Petersburg. When asked why she has decided to register to vote now for her first time Hadley said, "Because I'm desperate to try to get the one that's in the White House out now." Hadley said, "I feel like I'm trying to save the country. It's more important now than ever." Hadley says she is currently supporting Mayor Pete or Bernie.
  4. Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark, shown in a 2011 public hearing in Largo.
  5. Leon County fifth-grader Ingrid Hanley asks the Senate Education Committee not to adopt legislation that would get tougher on D-rated schools, during a Feb. 17, 2020, session.
  6. The Republican Party recently asked Florida tax collectors to provide "all email addresses" that had been collected by their offices.
  7. For Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink is endorsing Michael Bloomberg in the Democratic primary for president.
  8. Russell Weigel. (Courtesy of Russell Weigel)
  9. Fans watch from the grandstands as Air Force One, carrying President Donald Trump, prepares to land at Daytona International Airport before the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday in Daytona Beach.
  10. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks during a Democratic presidential primary debate on Feb. 7 hosted by ABC News, Apple News, and WMUR-TV at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H.
  11. Nathan Myers, left, embraces his uncle, Clifford Williams, during a news conference after their 1976 murder convictions were overturned March 28, 2019, in Jacksonville. The order to vacate the convictions originated from the first ever conviction integrity review unit set up by State Attorney Melissa Nelson.
  12. Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg speaks at a campaign event in Raleigh, N.C., on Feb. 13, 2020.