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Florida House Panel Approves Hemp Product Restriction Bill Despite Concerns Over Economic Impact



“I don’t concede that actually it’s going to have a negative fiscal impact on businesses or revenue derived from taxes based on those businesses.”

By Mitch Perry, Florida Phoenix

For the past two legislative sessions in Tallahassee, the Florida hemp industry has trekked to the Capitol to fight a proposed cap on the amount of THC in their products, saying that such a change in current policy would be extremely detrimental to their economic livelihoods.

But the sponsor of the House version of the proposal in this year’s session dismissed those concerns on Monday afternoon, saying he didn’t believe that a cap would have much of a financial impact at all.

The legislative measure under question, (HB 1613) by Manatee County Republican Tommy Gregory, would limit THC in hemp products to no more than 2 milligrams per serving and no more than 10 milligrams per container. The bill would redefine the definition of hemp to ban synthetically or naturally occurring versions of substances such as Delta-8. THC is the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

Michael Pool runs Astrobleme, a hemp retailer out of Tampa. He said that the milligram cap in the bill would not only make the psychoactive products being focused on in the bill illegal, but a lot of non-psychoactive products as well.

“I have products in over 80 stores across the state,” he said. “Most of those stores are doing $2,000 a month, $3,000 a month, to $4,000 a month in sales of my products. And to just completely remove that would not be to my detriment, but all those others.”

Brevard County GOP Rep. Thad Altman, chair of the Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee that heard the bill Monday, asked Gregory what he thought the hit would be to the state economy if his bill became the law. Gregory said there wouldn’t be any.

“I don’t concede that actually it’s going to have a negative fiscal impact on businesses or revenue derived from taxes based on those businesses,” Gregory maintained, but did foresee reduced state spending for “providing care for people that overdose when they’re self-medicating using these products that need further regulation.”

Later, Democratic Rep. Dianne Hart of Hillsborough County asked Gregory directly: “Do we think that this may destroy a vital industry in our state?”

“No, I don’t have that concern at all,” Gregory replied. “I don’t think that it’s going to have that impact.”


That comment engendered reactions of incredulity from those involved in the hemp industry.

Glen Sheppard and his wife run Tallulah, which owns smoke shops around the state.

“To say that there won’t be any economic impact to the state of Florida, I can tell you that’s totally false,” Sheppard said. “It’s strange that somebody can come stand up here and claim one thing that’s totally, obviously not true at all.”

The committee ended up supporting the proposal along party lines.

Broward County Democratic Rep. Hillary Cassel said the legislation, if it makes its way to Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) desk, would shut down the hemp industry in Florida.

“You will go to another state,” she said to those in the hemp industry sitting in the audience. “And we will find our consumers and Floridians in a position where they will be buying [hemp products] from the black market, buying it off the internet and having no idea what’s contained within that product.”

A similar bill was heard last year in the Legislature, but the caps on THC products were removed, with the final legislation instead focusing on prohibiting marketing that targets children including packaging it to resemble candy that could be attractive to kids. This year’s bill expands the laboratory and packaging requirements applicable to hemp extract distributed or sold in the state.

The Senate version of the proposal (SB 1698) has already passed the two committees it was assigned to and is headed to Senate floor for a vote.

This story was first published by Florida Phoenix.

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

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