Cannabis director expects first Florida hemp crop in 2020

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - Business leaders and entrepreneurs in the state’s capital city got an update on the rollout of a hemp industry from the Florida Department of Agriculture’s Director of Cannabis, Holly Bell.

A plan to build up a hemp industry in Florida could be in place by the end of 2019. (MGN)

Bell is optimistic a program will be in place by the end of the year.

Florida farmers, investors, and entrepreneurs all have their eyes on hemp.

“It's safer and it's extremely durable too if you were to talk about clothing, infrastructure, and building,” said Braden Ward, a senior at Florida Southern College.

Ward drove three hours to hear from Bell on how the hemp industry will look in Florida.

“What's upcoming in the future for us to try and invest in if that be the case,” said Ward.

The hemp bill passed in May will officially legalize hemp and its byproducts, like CBD, in Florida. It’s expected to be a multibillion-dollar industry.

“Industrial hemp has 25,000 known uses today,” said Bell.

In addition to the numerous uses, supporters also hope hemp will become a supplemental crop for Panhandle farmers hit hard by Hurricane Michael.

“They see it as, the best way for me to describe it, as a lifeline,” said Bell.

Governor Ron DeSantis still has to sign the hemp bill into law. Once he does that, the Department of Agriculture will have to develop rules before the industry can truly get started.

Bell said the hemp industry will be a horizontal system, allowing people to get involved in any part of the process, unlike medical marijuana where license holders have to own everything from seed to sale. She said it will ensure the industry open to everyone.

“From multi-million, billion-dollar companies to a farmer with five acres,” said Bell.

Bell said she anticipates the state will see it first official harvest in 2020, but said it will be a multi-year process for the industry and market to fully bloom.

Once the Governor signs the bill, the Department of Agriculture will begin gathering public input from around the state to help guide the rulemaking process.