Governor DeSantis says he’ll sign hemp bill as Agriculture Department wraps up workshops

Photo Source: Barbetorte / CC BY-SA 3.0 / MGN
Photo Source: Barbetorte / CC BY-SA 3.0 / MGN(KALB)
Published: Jun. 24, 2019 at 5:57 PM CDT
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Hemp advocates at the third and final rulemaking workshop in the state's capital city are hoping to see the Governor sign the bill legalizing the plant's cultivation and sale before the end of the week.

In an exclusive interview, Governor Ron DeSantis told us he intends to approve the hemp bill.

"It can be valuable for agriculture so the Legislature obviously felt it was worth a shot so I'm going to sign it,” said DeSantis.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has already had her agency draft rules for how the new industry will be regulated. The 23-page draft document covers areas like importation, licensing, and testing.

“If there are safe products out there we want those promoted and ones that are not tested, not labeled correctly those are going to come off the shelves,” said Fried.

The Department of Agriculture just wrapped up a statewide workshop tour, where it took input from those eyeing the industry. While the Department hopes hemp will be a viable crop for small farmers up to large cooperations, some farmers expressed concerns the proposed regulations may be overburdensome.

David Avent is a sixth generation Florida farmer hit hard by Hurricane Michael.

“I'm looking for something to make some money to send my children to Maclay School and I can't do it growing pine trees at the moment,” said Avent. "The least amount of regulations and rules would be much appreciated on the farmers who are suffering greatly under this time."

He’s worried a proposed requirement that hemp exceeding the 0.3% THC threshold must be destroyed could make the crop a risky option.

“You may lose your money doing everything right,” said Avent.

Fried said special consideration for Panhandle farmers and other concerns raised in the workshops will be addressed as the rules are finalized.

“We're going through the hypotheticals now. You know, what if this happens or what is the problem here and that we're able to address those,” said Fried.

The Commissioner said the goal is to finalize the rules sometime in the Fall of 2019.

Once the Department submits its plan to the federal government, the USDA will have 60 days to either approve or deny the state’s application. The hope is to have the first crop in the ground in early 2020.