On Friday May 3, 2019 the Florida Senate voted 39-0 in favor of SB 1020 which creates the framework for a state hemp program. The bill is now headed to Governor DeSantis who is expected to sign it.
Following the passage of the federal Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (“2018 Farm Bill”) in December 2018, which legalized industrial hemp as an agricultural product by declassifying hemp as a controlled substance, Florida has moved quickly to develop a plan to submit to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture in order to apply for primary regulatory authority over the production of hemp within the state. Under the 2018 Farm Bill, a plan must include: (i) a procedure for tracking land upon which hemp will be produced; (ii) testing methods for determining THC concentration levels of hemp; (iii) methods for effective disposal of noncompliant products; (iv) enforcement procedures; (v) inspection procedures; and (vi) certification procedures for the persons authorized to produce hemp, test hemp products, inspect hemp producers, and enforce the provisions of the state or tribal plan.
SB 1020 authorizes Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (“Department”) to create a state industrial hemp program to administer and oversee the cultivation, handling, processing and sale of hemp. Notably, the bill:
- Requires registration with the Department and a background check;
- Requires a registrant to provide the legal land description and global positioning coordinates of the area where hemp will be cultivated;
- Provides for random inspections, at least annually, of each licensee to ensure that only certified hemp seeds are being used and that hemp is being cultivated in compliance with applicable regulations;
- Provides for distribution and retail sale of hemp and hemp products;
- Requires the Department to adopt rules to administer the state hemp program in consultation with the Department of Health and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation;
- Directs the Commissioner of Agriculture, in consultation with the Governor and Attorney General, to submit a plan for regulating hemp to the United States Secretary of Agriculture;
- Creates an Industrial Hemp Advisory Board to provide advice and expertise to universities and the Department; and
- Revises the definition of “cannabis” for purposes of ch. 893, F.S. (“Drug Abuse and Prevention Control”) to exclude hemp and industrial hemp.
Once signed by the Governor, SB 1020 will take effect on July 1, 2019. After that date, hemp, its extracts and derivatives (such as Cannabidiol (“CBD”)), will no longer be illegal controlled substances under Florida law and may be sold in Florida subject to certain requirements. The Department must now begin a rule-making process, and will submit its plan for overseeing Florida’s hemp program to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for approval.
 Federal law must still be considered as it supersedes Florida law.