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Florida’s Hemp Industry Faces Dramatic Changes as Controversial Bill Heads to Governor for Approval

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In a move that could reshape Florida's hemp market significantly, a bill awaits Governor Ron DeSantis' signature, despite strong opposition from business owners who fear detrimental effects on the state's marketplace. Critics argue that the legislation may not only dismantle the hemp industry but also impact products with no psychoactive effects.

The bill, known as SB1698, passed the Senate unanimously, but the House was divided, with a 64-48 vote, including 14 Republicans voting against it. The proposed law aims to ban delta-8 products such as gummies, tinctures, and vapes, potentially affecting other products like CBD extracts due to the prohibition of certain natural cannabinoids found in hemp extract.

Business owners warn that the legislation could lead to job losses for thousands of Floridians, while consumers emphasize the positive impact of hemp on mental and physical health. However, the bill's sponsor, Rep. Tommy Gregory, dismissed these concerns, claiming that hemp products are being sold for their intoxicating properties, driven by financial incentives.

Some banned cannabinoids, including delta-8, delta-10, THC-V, and THC-P, exist in low levels in certain CBD products used to manage health conditions. This includes oils derived from Charlotte's Web, originally created for a young girl with epilepsy who saw significant improvement using CBD.

Individuals like Tracy Thaxton Berg, who relies on hemp oil to manage her daughter Riley's epilepsy, express fears about potential restrictions. Riley, who has severe autism, has been seizure-free for nearly eight years with the use of hemp oil, eliminating the need for pharmaceuticals with adverse side effects.

Opponents of the bill argue that it could push the industry towards the black market, dispensaries, and out-of-state manufacturers, potentially jeopardizing businesses and jobs. JJ Coombs, operating three hemp businesses in Fort Lauderdale, warns that the bill might force him to relocate, risking over 150 full-time employees.

While the bill proposes a compromise with a cap of 5 milligrams of delta-9 THC per serving or 50 milligrams per container, critics argue that it could favor the medical marijuana industry. Some Democrats in the House suggest that the bill might dismantle one industry to benefit another, especially as recreational marijuana legalization looms on the horizon.

As Florida awaits the Governor's decision, stakeholders remain divided over the potential impact of the bill on the state's burgeoning hemp industry and the well-being of those relying on hemp products for various health conditions.