Third Florida Senate Committee Passes Bill to Legalize Hemp Farming

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Apr. 9, 2015) – A Florida state Senate committee approved a bill yesterday that would authorize the farming, production, and sale of industrial hemp in the state, effectively blocking the federal prohibition on the same. The vote was 8-4.

Introduced by State Sen. Jeff Clemons (D-Palm Beach) on Feb. 13, Senate Bill 902 (S902) not only designates industrial hemp as an agricultural crop, but also sets up the framework to effectuate a commercial hemp farming program in the state. Additionally, it expressly rejects any need for federal approval. It states, in part:

"The department may not adopt under this chapter, or any other provision of law, a rule that prohibits an individual from growing, processing, distributing, manufacturing, or selling hemp based on its legal status under federal law."

S902 previously passed the Agriculture Committee with a 7-0 vote, and the Senate Criminal Justice Committee with a 5-0 vote. It passed through the Regulated Industries Committee on April 8 by an 8-4 vote.

Individuals would be permitted to cultivate and distribute industrial hemp after receiving a license from state regulators. Requirements to receive a license under S902 include: name and address, location of the hemp farm, allowing regular inspections of authorized grow operations, and paying an annual registration fee not exceeding $100. The bill would take effect on July 1, 2015 if passed into law.

The bill gives Alaska the chance to join several other states – Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont and North Dakota – that have already passed similar measures.

Farmers in SE Colorado started harvesting the plant in 2013, and farmers in Vermont began harvesting in 2014, effectively thwarting federal restrictions on such agricultural activities in practice. On Feb. 2, the Oregon hemp industry officially opened for business and one week later, the first license went to a small non-profit group who hopes to plant 25 acres this spring. The Tennessee Agricultural department recently put out a call for licensing, signaling that hemp farming will start soon there too. And a law signed by North Dakota Gov. Dalrymple this month authorizes the same.

Experts suggest that the U.S. market for hemp is around $600 million per year. They count as many as 25,000 uses for industrial hemp, including food, cosmetics, plastics and bio-fuel. The U.S. is currently the world’s #1 importer of hemp fiber for various products, with China and Canada acting as the top two exporters in the world.

During World War II, the United States military relied heavily on hemp products, which resulted in the famous campaign and government-produced film, “Hemp for Victory!”.

But, since the enactment of the deplorable federal controlled-substances act in 1970, the Drug Enforcement Agency has prevented the production of hemp within the United States. Many hemp supporters feel that the DEA has been used as an “attack dog” of sorts to prevent competition with major industries where American-grown hemp products would create serious market competition: Cotton, Paper/Lumber, Oil, and others.

Earlier in 2014, President Barack Obama signed a new farm bill into law, which included a provision allowing a handful of states to begin limited research programs growing hemp. The new “hemp amendment”

"…allows State Agriculture Departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp, defined as the non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis, for academic or agricultural research purposes, but it applies only to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law."

S902 goes further than what is currently authorized by the federal government, and legalizes the crop for industrial production – whether the feds like it or not. It now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee, where it will need to pass before the full Senate can consider it.

ACTION ITEMS

For Florida: Take action to legalize support this bill AT THIS LINK.

For other states: Call your state legislators and politely urge them to introduce a bill similar to SB902 such as our Hemp Freedom Act.