Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), a 2024 Republican presidential candidate, has signed a bill banning sales of any consumable hemp products—including cannabis “chewing gum”—to people under 21, an expansion of an existing prohibition on young people being able to purchase smokable hemp.
The legislation, SB 1676 from Sen. Colleen Burton (R), was signed into law last week and took effect on Saturday. It also creates penalties for businesses that market hemp in a way that’s appealing to children and bans products that look like candy or are manufactured “in the shape of humans, cartoons, or animals.”
The bill prohibits the sale of hemp extract “including, but not limited to, snuff, chewing gum, and other smokeless products” to people under 21. A person who violates the revised statute would be subject to a second degree misdemeanor for a first offense and a first degree misdemeanor for a second or subsequent offense within one year of the initial violation.
“Hemp extract products found to be mislabeled or attractive to children are subject to an immediate stop-sale order,” the measure also says.
Additionally, the newly implemented law imposes rules on hemp product packaging. It requires, for example, that the containers mitigate “exposure to high temperatures” and do not appeal to children.
Further, the bill amends statute to make it so hemp products can only be sold if they are “processed in a facility that holds a current and valid permit issued by a human health or food safety regulatory entity with authority over the facility, and that facility meets the human health or food safety sanitization requirements of the regulatory entity.”
The legislation as introduced would have capped the THC limit for hemp products, but that was amended out in a House committee in April following significant pressure from hemp industry representatives.
The governor separately signed a measure last week that prohibits sober living facilities from allowing residents to possess or use medical marijuana, even if the patient is certified by a doctor to legally use cannabis therapeutically in accordance with state law.
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Last month, the governor also signed legislation that allows doctors to renew medical cannabis recommendations to patients via telehealth and also takes steps to promote participation in the state’s medical marijuana program by Black farmers.
DeSantis’s marijuana policy comments and actions have come under the spotlight since he entered the race—and especially since he said recently that he would not decriminalize cannabis if he’s elected to the White House.
He argued, among other things, that marijuana use hurts the workforce, inhibits productivity and could even lead to death if contaminated. The position has earned him criticism, including by Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
DeSantis also talked about Florida’s medical marijuana program that was enacted by voters, saying military veterans are “actually allowed access” to cannabis under that model. But he said the issue is “controversial because obviously there’s some people that abuse it and are using it recreationally.”
Several Republican 2024 presidential hopefuls have also addressed drug policy issues in recent weeks.
For example, former President Donald Trump seemed confused during a recent interview when he was confronted with the fact that his proposed plan to impose the death penalty on drug traffickers would have condemned a woman he pardoned and promoted as an example of a key criminal justice reform achievement during his administration.
At a CNN town hall event last month, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said that he would “end” the war on drugs if elected, emphasizing the need for a treatment-based approach to people experiencing addiction—while at the same time maintaining that he’d seek to increase enforcement against those who sell drugs.
Photo courtesy of Kimzy Nanney.