Florida Hemp Overview

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What Is Hemp?

Hemp (industrial hemp) is a plant of the Cannabaceae botanical family, specifically grown for its fiber. It is often confused with cannabis, a plant belonging to the same botanical family, because of their physical similarities. However, there are notable differences between hemp and cannabis plants. Hemp plants are usually tall and slim with fewer branches, and the leaves are concentrated at the top of the flowers. On the other hand, a cannabis plant has a more bulky appearance because the leaves spread evenly throughout the branches. Also, cannabis plants have more flowers than hemp plants.

Hemp seeds are small oval-shaped brown seeds of the hemp plant which have hard shells. When hemp seeds are soaked in water, blended, and strained, they yield a white liquid known as hemp milk which is believed to have numerous health benefits. Hemp seeds may be de-shelled to reveal greenish kernels which are softer than the outer shells. The de-shelled hemp seeds are called hemp hearts.

Hemp extracts are concentrations of various components of the hemp plant, such as flowers, leaves, and stems. They usually contain different chemical compounds, including terpenes, cannabinoids, fatty acids, and plant sterols. Hemp oil, also called hemp seed oil, is obtained by pressing hemp seeds.

Is Hemp Legal in Florida?

Yes, hemp is legal in Florida. The United States legalized hemp on February 7, 2014, through the Agricultural Act of 2014 (the 2014 Farm Bill). The provisions of Section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill allowed states to operate agricultural pilot programs to study the cultivation and marketing of industrial hemp. In December 2018, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, also called the 2018 Farm Bill, was signed into federal law. This Act removed hemp from the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and provided a legal framework for hemp cultivation. The 2018 Farm Bill also gave the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulatory authority over hemp production at the federal level. Nevertheless, states were given the option to maintain primary regulatory authority for hemp cultivation within their borders.

According to Section 297B of the 2018 Farm Bill, states that desired primary regulatory authority over hemp production within their jurisdictions were required to submit their hemp production regulation plans to the United States Secretary of Agriculture for approval. As a result, Florida's first hemp law - CS/CS/SB 1020, codified in Section 581.217 of the Florida Statutes, was passed on July 1, 2019. In line with CS/CS/SB 1020, the Florida state hemp program was created under the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) to regulate hemp production in the state. The provisions of Section 581.217 of the Florida Statutes made it compulsory for persons cultivating hemp in the state to obtain hemp cultivation licenses from the FDACS in order to operate legally. Florida residents may legally transport hemp and hemp products across state lines, provided the products or plants do not contain more than 0.3% of THC as permitted under the 2018 Farm Bill. Hemp transported across state lines must be in fully enclosed vehicles, and the transporters must have documentation indicating the hemp product's origin and destination.

What Hemp Products are Legal in Florida?

All hemp products with total THC content not exceeding 0.3% are legal in Florida. According to the provisions of Section 581.217 of the Florida Statutes, the hemp products allowed in the state include extracts, salts, acids, cannabinoids, and seeds. Also, in line with Rule 5K-4.034 of the Florida Administrative Code (FAC), it is legal to cultivate hemp for manufacturing food products or edibles in the state. Facilities manufacturing or selling hemp-containing food products are required to obtain hemp food establishment permits from the Division of Food Safety under the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). The provisions of Section 581.217 of the Florida Statutes do not prohibit the smoking of hemp in public spaces or restrict drivers/truckers from smoking hemp while driving. Nevertheless, Florida requires that hemp smoking or vaping should not create a psychotropic effect.

Can A Municipality Restrict Hemp Cultivation or Processing in Florida?

The provisions of Section 581.217 of the Florida Statutes do not permit city or county authorities in the state to restrict hemp cultivation or production within their borders.

How to Get a License to Grow or Process Hemp in Florida

Per Section 581.217(5)(a) of the Florida Statutes, persons cultivating hemp in the state are required to obtain hemp cultivation licenses from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). In line with Section 581.217(5)(e)(2) of the Florida Statutes, the FDACS cannot give a hemp cultivation license to a person convicted of a controlled substance-related felony within the 10 years preceding their application. To apply for a hemp cultivation license in Florida, a person should locate a livescan service provider in their area and submit their fingerprints for criminal background checks. Afterward, a hemp cultivation license applicant should create an account in the FDACS's hemp cultivation license application portal, provide the required documents, and submit their application.

One of the required documents for a Florida hemp cultivation license application is an environmental containment plan for each proposed cultivation location. Applicants may review the FDACS's sample containment plan for hemp cultivation license applications. The FDACS sends confirmation emails to Florida hemp cultivation license applicants after they submit their applications through the portal. Successful applicants will receive their hemp cultivation licenses via email. The FDACS provides an application checklist for prospective hemp cultivation license holders in Florida.

How Much Does a License to Grow or Process Hemp Cost in Florida?

Hemp cultivation licenses in Florida are free of charge. Therefore, licensees are not required to pay application fees to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) during their initial registration or annual renewal.

How to Grow Hemp in Florida

Licensed hemp cultivators in Florida are required to grow hemp plants from seeds approved by certifying agencies as defined in Section 578.011(8) of the Florida Statutes. Hemp growers in the state are prohibited from planting seeds or cuttings obtained from plants they cultivate themselves. Typically, hemp seeds are pre-soaked for up to 8 hours to germinate before planting. Hemp seeds are normally planted closely together (about 4 inches apart) to allow the plants to grow upward instead of branching out. Unlike hemp plants, marijuana plants are usually planted wider apart (up to 6 feet) to allow them to branch out.

Hemp cultivators may use pesticide products on their hemp plants, provided they follow the hemp pesticide regulations set by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). Any pesticide used in hemp production must be registered with the FDACS and applied according to its label instructions. Per Section 5B-57.014 of the Florida Administrative Code, the FDACS must collect samples of each batch of hemp plants grown by licensed hemp farmers in the state no earlier than 30 days before harvest. The hemp samples are tested for THC concentration. If the test indicates that the THC level of a hemp sample is within accepted limits (not over 0.3%), the tested batch may be harvested.

Where Can You Buy Hemp Flower in Florida?

Businesses in the state are allowed to ship hemp flowers with a maximum THC content of 0.3%. The provisions of Section 581.217 of the Florida Statutes do not restrict Florida residents from buying or smoking hemp flowers, provided THC content is within the allowed limit. Also, there is no limit to the number of hemp flowers a person can buy at once. Therefore, Florida residents may legally purchase any quantity of smokable hemp flowers online or in local stores such as smoke shops and marijuana dispensaries.

Hemp vs THC

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is different from hemp. Hemp is a plant, while THC is a psychoactive chemical compound found in hemp and marijuana plants. Unlike cannabis plants that contain high levels of THC, hemp plants have much lower THC levels. According to Section 581.217 of the Florida Statutes, it is legal to sell hemp-derived THC products in the state. However, the products must not contain more than 0.3% of THC.

Hemp vs CBD

Hemp is a plant of the Cannabaceae family, while CBD (cannabidiol) is a non-psychotropic cannabinoid derived from hemp and marijuana. Hemp plants usually contain higher concentrations of CBD than cannabis plants. The provisions of Section 581.217 of the Florida Statutes make it legal to sell hemp-derived CBD products in the state.

Hemp Applications

Hemp plants have numerous industrial applications. They may be used to manufacture rope, paper, shoes, biofuel, jewelry, fabrics for clothes and furnishings, plaster, and concrete for building. Hemp seeds are widely used in the food industry for baking and manufacturing beverages. Also, hemp seeds are used in producing animal feed, and the oils derived from the seeds are used for cooking and in the manufacture of creams, oil-based paints, and plastics.

Florida Hemp Overview