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Florida Officials Invite Students Grades 4-12 To Invent New Uses For Hemp As Part Of Essay Contest

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Florida students from grades 4-12 are being invited to brainstorm new uses for hemp as part of an annual “Agricultural History and Creativity” contest being overseen by the state agriculture department.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D), who is running for governor, announced the new contest on Tuesday. A total of nine students from different grade ranges could be selected to win a $1,000 scholarship and be honored at next year’s Florida Cabinet meeting at the state Capitol.

A description of the essay requirements explains that hemp was federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill and the crop is a “diverse commodity, and it can be refined into a variety of commercial items such as paper, rope, paint, etc.”

“Just as hi-tech innovations have changed the very foundation of how we conceive of everything from phones to computers to household appliances; the same is true of hemp,” it says. “Some of the most notable inventions made of hemp include planes, cars, batteries, eyeglasses, hempcrete (concrete building material), plastics and so much more. The possibilities are endless.”

To that end, students are being encouraged to showcase their cannabis creativity with a 500-word essay on inventions that they come up with that are made with at least 50 percent hemp.

“Following the inception of the state’s hemp program in 2020, this newest Florida commodity has been leading the way in creating safe and sustainable products, furthering Florida’s rich agricultural history and the state’s second largest economic driver,” Fried said in a press release. “Hemp has the potential for over 25,000 uses including textiles, biocomposite building materials, biodegradable packaging products, and food and medicinal products. We’re excited to see what innovative products Florida’s young minds will add to this list next, as we continue to keep Florida growing sustainably.”

The contest prompt goes into detail about how the crop is currently being utilized—as an environmentally sustainable alternative to concrete, textiles and plastics. The guidelines from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services are different for each of the three grade groups that can submit essays, but all submissions must be based on a “product that you have invented that will be created with at least 50 percent hemp materials.”

Here are the descriptions of the scholarship assignments for each grade level: 

Elementary (Grades 4-5) – Considering the information above, write about a product that you have invented that will be created with at least 50% hemp materials.

Middle School (Grades 6-8) – Considering the information above, write about a product that you have invented that will be created with at least 50% hemp materials. Additionally, explain the importance of this invention and why it is useful.

High School (Grades 9-12) – Considering the information above, write about a product that you have invented that will be created with at least 50% hemp materials. Additionally, explain the importance of this invention and why it is useful. Lastly, be sure to share how this invention will positively impact your community and create a more sustainable future.

Fried has been a vocal advocate for the hemp industry and marijuana reform in general, so it’s not especially surprising that she’d helm the hemp-focused contest, even if the idea of encouraging elementary school students to write about cannabis—albeit in its nonintoxicating form—could potentially ruffle some conservative feathers.

Fried has publicly stated that she’s a medical cannabis cardholder in the state, and she previously lobbied on behalf of a plant farm that was later bought out by a major cannabis company before she became the Florida’s top agriculture regulator.

She frequently talks about her advocacy for cannabis policy reform on social media, and she has investments in a marijuana company.

Regulators in her office have criticized Oregon hemp businesses over hemp products that they say contain rocks and sticks and have failed to meet regulatory guidelines on allowable THC content. Instead, consumers should buy local products made in Florida, Fried’s department said.

In 2018, the national bank Wells Fargo fired Fried as a client because her campaign has received donations from “lobbyists from the medical marijuana industry.”

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