On May 3, 2019, the Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 1020 (the “Hemp Bill”), which will create a robust commercial hemp industry within the State. The Hemp Bill creates a state hemp program within Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). Once signed by the Governor, the Hemp Bill will take effect on July 1, 2019. On that date, hemp and its derivatives, including CBD, will no longer be considered an illegal controlled substance under Florida law.
The State’s forthcoming hemp program will allow individuals to cultivate hemp, and distribute and sell “hemp extracts” within the State. Unlike Florida’s limited medical marijuana program, the Hemp Bill does not place a cap on the number of licenses available for the cultivation of hemp. In order to cultivate hemp, a person will apply to FDACS for a license, submit fingerprints for a background check, and provide the location of where hemp will be cultivated. Once issued a license, the licensee will be permitted to cultivate only hemp seeds and cultivars that are certified in the State.
Under the Hemp Bill, hemp extract – defined as a compound of hemp that is intended for ingestion – may be distributed and sold in Florida if the product meets certain testing and packaging requirements. Thus, a legal pathway to sell CBD products has finally been created under Florida law. Note, however, that Florida’s new law will not supersede federal laws and regulations, which must be considered when selling CBD products.
Florida’s commercial hemp program will not become operational for several more months. Indeed, FDACS must first promulgate rules for the program. Under the Hemp Bill, FDACS must begin the rule-making process for certain aspects of the program by August 1, 2019. Within 30 days after adopting rules, FDACS must seek approval of Florida’s state plan from the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) in order for the State to have primary regulatory authority over its program. The USDA has announced that it will not begin reviewing state plans until after it promulgates its own regulations, which is expected to occur sometime in the Fall of this year.