Florida’s Hemp Industry May Go Up In Smoke After Unanimous Vote to Pass SB 1698

Florida’s Hemp Industry May Go Up In Smoke After Unanimous Vote to Pass SB 1698

In a David-versus-Goliath showdown, Florida’s hemp farmers and small-business owners are finding themselves at the mercy of relentless legislative juggernauts hell-bent on tightening regulations around hemp products. The latest update is sparking a contentious debate that pits health and safety concerns against economic livelihoods and, of course, consumer choice.

The latest move comes in the form of Senate Bill 1698, which passed unanimously in the Senate. This bill seeks to impose caps on the levels of THC present in hemp products. It also aims to strengthen regulations surrounding the packaging and sale of edible hemp products that contain THC alternatives like delta-8 THC.

These caps would restrict the THC content to no more than 0.3% delta-9 THC, which is currently the federal standard under the US Farm Bill. However, it also places limits on other cannabinoids, including synthetic THC alternatives like delta-8 and delta-10 from being legally sold as hemp products. Additionally, SB 1698 aims to strengthen regulations surrounding the packaging of edible hemp products, requiring them to be unattractive to children and clearly labeled with pertinent information, similar to regulated cannabis found at local medical dispensaries.

Legislators swear up and down that the move is based entirely on public health and safety, aiming to prevent THC from falling into the hands of people under 21 or additional consequences that can come with a relatively unregulated hemp industry. Advocates of the legislation argue that stringent measures are essential to safeguarding citizens, particularly minors, from potential harm.

The problem is, it’ll be snuffing out small business owners and hemp farmers currently making a living and stimulating the economy in Florida. It also prevents people who are presently ineligible for medical marijuana in Florida that still benefit from managing their wellness. People are outraged and fear the devastating impact these restrictions will have on business operations and their own choice of their medicine. Many argue that these regulations would effectively force countless farms, smoke shops and CBD stores out of business, which is a massive betrayal considering the promise of economic opportunity that the hemp industry once held.

CBD store

Jammie Treadwell, co-owner of Treadwell Farms, a century-old family farm that ventured into hemp cultivation following legislative changes in 2019, expressed a sense of betrayal: “We feel like you’re pulling the rug completely out from under us.” This bill will leave generations of hard work and dedication in tatters if passed. Not just for Treadwell, but for countless others within the industry who view the proposed measures as a betrayal of trust and a threat to their livelihoods.

To take it a step further, critics of the legislation contend that it is not merely about health and safety but rather a calculated move by established marijuana operators to stifle competition ahead of a potential ballot measure in November that could legalize recreational marijuana. The influence of major players like Trulieve, which has heavily invested in pushing for the legalization of recreational marijuana, raises suspicions about the true motives behind the proposed restrictions.

Either way, republican representative Tommy Gregory, one of the proponents of the legislation, insists that these measures are necessary to protect people and keep the public safe. Opponents argue that the regulations are overly broad and could inadvertently dismantle much of Florida’s hemp industry, depriving consumers of alternative options for managing other aspects of their overall wellness.

Legislators are contemplating banning synthetic cannabinoids made from hemp-derived CBD like delta-8 and delta-10 THC products altogether, citing concerns about their safety and potential misuse. Although, at the end of the day, it really feels like Florida is snuffing out hemp shops to make way for a more lucrative recreational marijuana market that will put more money in their pockets with its passage.

Hemp fields

As Florida lawmakers stand on the brink of enacting stricter regulations on hemp products, the fate of the state’s hemp industry unfortunately hangs in the balance. While proponents argue for the necessity of safeguarding public health, opponents decry what they see as a heavy-handed approach that threatens to upend an industry still finding its footing.

As the debate rages on, one thing remains clear: the outcome of this legislative battle will have far-reaching implications for hemp farmers, small-business owners, consumers, and the future of cannabis policy in Florida.

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