While it may seem like the world has come to a grinding halt amidst the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, that is not entirely the case. Americans are still at work and trying to maintain their every day lives as best they can. Lobbyists and activists are the last group we would expect to put everything on pause during the crisis we are facing. One group that has triumphed in this unusual times is The Florida Hemp Council.
The group saw a victory with the passing of the bill HB 921 in the Florida Senate and House. The bill addresses a variety of concerns in the agricultural industry, but the late amendments brought about some much needed reforms in the hemp industry.
We discussed the passing of the bill with co-founder of The Florida Hemp Council, Jeff Greene, in order to get a better understanding of the effects that this bill would yield.
What Does this Bill Mean for the Hemp Industry?
The most apparent effect of this bill to the consumer will be recognizable right on the packaging of hemp products. The removal of the “rigid wording requirements” put in place by Florida legislature will allow for clearer labeling. Nationwide there are currently 12 different labels required for hemp products. Greene hopes that this move by the Florida government will trigger reform across the country and lead to some uniformity.
The second, and arguably most important effect, is the impact this bill will have in hemp research — something which Dr Dan Connors (who we spoke to prior to this bill passing) would certainly be excited about. Greene told us that the language approved in this bill would allow for more research into plant genetics and will help determine what can be farmed in the hot, humid and rainy Florida climate. In the long term, this could have a massive ripple effect on the state economy. By no longer having to outsource farming to other states, the Florida agricultural industry could see a boom.
Another benefit to staying in line with the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA) as far as language goes, is that it opens the door to redefining language used by the FDA, DEA and USDA. The Florida Hemp Council’s next step in this regard is to “redefine the term destruction and increase research on fiber and other parts of the plant that can expand usage.”
The last major effect of this bill on the hemp industry, according to Greene, comes from the relaxation of certain regulations. Now, hemp products that fall under the Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) designation from the FDA will be exempt from stringent testing and labeling. This would then allow “seeds and micro-greens to be sold in mainstream grocery stores without disruption … Since these products are not subject to THC or contaminant concerns, this would have been over-burdensome and potentially catastrophic to that segment of our industry.”
What Else is in this Bill?
As with any bill, there are always several issues being addressed. HB 921 is no exception to that rule. Unlike the COVID-19 bill making headlines for its inclusion of new abortion restrictions, this bill is straightforward. Everything unrelated to hemp in the bill falls under the umbrella of the Department of Agriculture.
The other aspects of the bill that address the State Hemp Program handle the reclassification of certain violations and age restrictions. In another noteworthy change, the bill states that “hemp extract sold in violation of the law shall be considered adulterated or misbranded.” This will allow hemp manufacturers a little more leeway and prevent them from operating in the legal gray area that they have been occupying to this point.
As far as everything else is concerned, farmers no longer have to deal with the restrictions previously in place for transporting agricultural loads. Forest Service Fire Fighters are now required to undergo more training, something that may be very necessary after the wildfire in the Everglades we saw in 2019.
Regulations and requirements surrounding Recreational Vehicles and their accompanying licenses were addressed in detail. The state government also set themselves up to come down on those who are using the Aquaculture label inappropriately. You can check out the full breakdown of HB 921 here.
It is expected for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to sign the bill into law in the coming days. For the hemp industry, we can expect more research and the empowerment of smaller companies and Florida farmers. Below is a full statement on the passing of HB 921 from Jeff Greene.
“At The Florida Hemp Council, we are happy with the result of the passing of HB 921. A late amendment to the bill allowed for important adjustments to the Hemp program in Florida. By exempting GRAS products and maintaining certain exemptions, we are able to cater to our small retailers and grocery store members. We were also able to keep order in the seed program for our farming members. Lastly, we are pleased to see that the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services received funding for 43 new employees. I would consider this session a win for the Florida hemp industry and am hopeful that Governor DeSantis will sign off, as planned.”