Florida Legislature Passes Business Friendly Hemp Program on Last Day of Regular Session

The Florida Legislature passed a bill to implement a hemp program in the state in accordance with the 2018 Farm Bill on the last day of the legislative session, May 3, 2019. The new law will require the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to establish a licensing and oversight program for the cultivation, distribution and sale of hemp and hemp extract. The department must also provide the USDA with Florida’s hemp plan for approval within 30 days of implementing the hemp regulations. The USDA’s approval for Florida’s hemp plan is needed to implement the 2018 Farm Bill in the state.

The new law makes it illegal to cultivate hemp without a license from the department. The new law does not limit the number of cultivators. Florida may deny an applicant a license for providing the state with false information, or if the applicant was convicted of a felony related to a controlled substance during the last 10 years. The new law delegates the implementation of the hemp program to the department. We believe that the USDA will drive the final oversight and enforcement requirements as part of the hemp plan approval process. However, the new law does manage to limit the department’s enforcement power by requiring the department to issue a notice of correction to persons who violate the regulations prior to issuing a fine.

The department will oversee the distribution and sale of hemp extracts that are intended for ingestion. Although processors and retailers will not need a license, the state will only allow hemp extract to be distributed and sold in the state if it is tested by an independent testing facility and packaged in accordance with the state’s laws and regulations. It is not clear as to what the penalties will be for violating the distribution and sale requirements.

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