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Florida Senate Passes Bill To Restrict Hemp Products And Ban Delta-8 THC



“When we passed the hemp program, it was not in anticipation of highly intoxicated, sometimes psychoactive substances being ingested by Floridians.”

By Mitch Perry, Florida Phoenix

The Florida Senate on Thursday unanimously passed a measure regulating hemp products in Florida, with the House expected to move ahead as well on the regulations. Meanwhile, officials in the hemp industry fear for the worse: A damaging blow to their livelihoods.

The Senate legislation (SB 1698) would place caps on the amount of THC in hemp-derived products sold in smoke shops throughout Florida. THC is the main component in element in cannabis that provides the psychoactive or “high” effect.

The measure also bans the sale of delta-8 products, one of the most popular items sold in these retail establishments since it came on the market shortly after Florida created their hemp program in 2019. And it would prohibit businesses from possessing hemp extract products that are considered “attractive” to children. Central Florida GOP Sen. Colleen Burton is the bill sponsor.

According to the National Cannabis Industry Association, delta-8 THC is banned in 17 states and severely restricted in seven more.

Burton says the bill is needed to protect the safety of Floridians.

“When we passed the hemp program, it was not in anticipation of highly intoxicated, sometimes psychoactive substances being ingested by Floridians,” she said on the Senate floor on Wednesday, when the bill came up for consideration. “The concerns we have had over the potential misuses of this product I believe has exceeded our expectations. So that’s why we have this bill today to continue the protections that we started last session.”

The next day, Thursday, the measure was voted on and passed.

The legislation now puts THC caps on hemp products; individual servings cannot exceed 2 milligrams, and containers cannot exceed more than 10 milligrams.

The bill received bipartisan support.

“We do need to add regulations to a product, especially in the cannabis/sativa arena, to protect Floridians, and I think that’s what you’re doing here, and I am eager to support this bill,” said Jacksonville Democratic Sen. Tracie Davis on Thursday.

Burton sponsored legislation during the 2023 session that originally included limits on hemp products, but after receiving strong pushback from members of the industry as well as regular Floridians who said they relied on the product to deal with physical pain, the final product simply barred the sale of such products to individuals under the age of 21. It also banned marketing that targets children and the packaging of such products that resemble candy that could be attractive to kids.

The bill that passed in the Senate on Thursday also includes more provisions on making hemp items less attractive to children. It defines attractive “as products that are manufactured in the shape or packaged in containers displaying humans, cartoons, or animals, toys or other features that specifically target children; manufactured in a form or packaged in a container that bears any reasonable resemblance to an existing candy or snack product that is familiar to the public.”

The bill also requires that before an event where hemp products are being sold or marketed, an event organizer must provide the state Department of Agriculture with a list of the businesses selling or marketing hemp extract products at the event and verify that each business is only selling hemp products from an approved source. The event organizer must ensure that each participating business is properly permitted.

It would also allocate $2 million in nonrecurring funds to the Department of Law Enforcement for the purchase of testing equipment for substances that might be seized, Burton said.

Total sales from hemp businesses totaled more than $10 billion in Florida in 2022, according to a 2023 analysis from Whitney Economics. That report also said that the industry employs approximately 104,000 workers paying in excess of $3.6 billion in annual wages.

Despite the concerns voiced by those who work in the hemp industry over the past two legislative sessions that the proposal will be extremely detrimental, Republicans have been relatively unsympathetic.

“I think it was a measured bill,” Senate President Kathleen Passidomo told reporters on Wednesday, following the Senate session that day. “It was well thought out.  You can tell that Sen. Burton spent a lot of time on it and listened to the stakeholders who appeared in committee, and she ended up with a good bill. So I am not concerned about it.”

Manatee County Republican Tommy Gregory, the sponsor of the bill in the House (HB 1613), also said earlier this week that he has no concerns about the impact of the legislation on those in the hemp industry.

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

The House bill passed in the Infrastructure Strategies Committee on Thursday afternoon, and that will now go to the House for a floor vote. If approved there, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) would then have to sign the measure for it to go into law.

This story was first published by Florida Phoenix.

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Photo courtesy of Kimzy Nanney.

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