Florida is Ready for the Hemp Industry

By Sally Kent Peebles, Caitlin Wightman

Apr 30, 2020

The hemp industry has arrived in Florida! After much anticipation, Florida farmers and hemp enthusiasts will finally be able to grow hemp right here in the Sunshine State. On April 16, 2020, the USDA officially approved Florida’s State Hemp Program, and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) began accepting applications for hemp cultivation permits on Monday, April 27, 2020, via their website FDACS.gov.

What is Hemp?

Hemp is the non-intoxicating cousin of marijuana, defined under federal and Florida state law as the cannabis sativa L. plant with 0.3% or less tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the cannabinoid responsible for the plant’s euphoric effects. Hemp has long been hailed as having a multitude of benefits. Cannabidiol (CBD), another cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant, has experienced an unprecedented commercial boom in the US recently, and the hemp plant’s nutrition profile is rich in healthy fats, essential fatty acids, protein, vitamins and minerals. Hemp is also used to make a variety of commercial and industrial products including textiles, paper, biofuel, plastics, and insulation.

Unlike marijuana, which is still listed as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, the hemp plant—including its cannabinoids, derivatives and extracts—was legalized under federal law with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. Now hemp, which was previously regulated like marijuana, is regulated as an agricultural crop by the USDA in coordination with state departments of agriculture and tribal authorities.

Hemp Seeds, Feeds and Foods in Florida

Many of Florida’s implemented hemp rules have been finalized and went into effect on January 1, 2020, including rules related to Hemp Seeds, Animal Feed, and Hemp Food Safety. Notably, the Hemp Food Safety Rule regulates the sale and distribution of “Hemp Extract,” which is defined as “a substance or compound intended for ingestion that is derived from or contains hemp and that does not contain other controlled substances,” and includes CBD and other cannabinoids extracted from the hemp plant. The Hemp Food Safety Rule requires that anyone who currently manufactures, processes, packs, holds, prepares, or sells food containing Hemp Extract, at wholesale or retail, must apply for a food permit from the FDACS Division of Food Safety. Similarly, per the Animal Feed Rule, anyone who currently sells pet food, pet treats, specialty pet food, and specialty pet treat products containing hemp extract must obtain a Feed Master Registration.

The Hemp Food Safety Rule and Hemp Program Statute, 581.217, F.S., impose various requirements that must be met before an entity or individual may sell Hemp Extract in Florida. All Hemp Extract must be tested by a certified laboratory for THC concentration and contaminants. In addition, Hemp Extract packaging and labeling must meet certain requirements, including having a scannable barcode or QR code that links to a certificate of analysis. The label must also include the batch number, the web address of a site where batch information can be found, expiration date, milligrams of Hemp Extract, a statement that the product contains less than 0.3% total delta-9 THC, and the milligrams of each cannabinoid per serving.

Hemp Cultivation in Florida

Florida’s hemp cultivation rule titled the “State Hemp Program,” went into effect on April 27, 2020. Those that would like to cultivate hemp in Florida must apply to FDACS for a cultivation permit. Applicants must provide FDACS with information including a background check for each controlling person and an environmental containment plan. A permit to cultivate hemp will be valid for one year. Permit holders must comply with all requirements of the State Hemp Program, including testing and reporting requirements and requirements for the use of certain seed or propagative material. Permit holders must notify FDACS at least 30 days before the intended harvest. Additionally, an FDACS representative must collect a sample from each lot within 15 days of harvest for THC testing, and deliver that sample to a certified testing laboratory. Hemp may only be harvested if test results show that the total delta-9 THC level is 0.3% or less. Notably, the rules require that permit holders only use hemp seed certified by the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA), or a seed or cultivar that is approved by an institution or university conducting an industrial hemp pilot project.

FDACS also imposes various specific requirements for the transport of live plants and propagative parts, unprocessed hemp, and processed hemp. Anyone transporting hemp in any form into the state of Florida must stop at an agricultural inspection station and present certain documentation which will depend on the form of hemp one is transporting.

Business Opportunities in Florida

If you are interested in participating in Florida’s hemp program or selling hemp products in the state, Vicente Sederberg LLP would love to hear from you. There are many entry points into this exciting new industry including, but certainly not limited to: cultivation, research, manufacturing cannabinoid extract, or processing hemp to create a multitude of commercial products. Each path comes with its own legal considerations, and we welcome the opportunity to utilize our years of experience in this unique space to help ensure your business is not only compliant, but also successful.

This article is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal or tax advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. This material may be considered attorney advertising under certain rules of professional conduct.