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News, Politics

Florida Passes Hemp Bill Without THC Cap

Mary Ekundayo

by Mary Ekundayo

June 8, 2023 12:00 pm ET Estimated Read Time: 5 Minutes
Florida Passes Hemp Bill Without THC Cap

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the psychoactive compound that is responsible for the “high” associated with marijuana. And while hemp and marijuana are essentially from the same plant, their difference is in their legal status based on the concentration of THC. Hemp typically contains 0.3% or less THC and produces no intoxicating effect. As such, it is primarily grown to harness its potential health benefits.

On Tuesday, May 2, 2023, the Florida House approved a bill that imposes no THC caps on hemp products. However, the bill still prohibited the sale of such products to persons under 21 and the use of packaging considered attractive to children. Also, there are testing protocols for edible hemp-derived products.

Debating the Need for a Hemp THC Cap

HB 1475—a bill that imposed a THC cap of 5 milligrams per dose or 50 milligrams per package—had originally been passed in the state House. The Senate version is pegged at 0.5 milligrams per dose or 2 milligrams per container, although this regulation exempts non-ingestible hemp products and topicals like lotions, creams, and shampoos. Complaints were raised on how the limit of THC on hemp will reduce its demand, thus ruining retail hemp businesses.

Schwarmann, the president of a hemp company in Daytona Beach called Outpost Brand, has expressed his concerns about the bill. He said, “Twenty-one and up, no child-attractive packaging…These things in the bill make sense. The problem is, the entire second half of the bill does nothing but destroy the entire hemp industry and hand it right over to medical marijuana companies.” He said, “We can regulate this to 21 plus to protect the kids but don’t destroy the entire industry. There is nothing to be gained from that.”

According to a study done by Whitney Economics, the hemp industry generates $3.5 billion in wages and has created jobs for over 100,000 people in Florida. The THC cap on hemp would cause many companies to go out of business or exit the state. Angela Warren, the manager of Asha Vapes, explained that over 50% of the hemp businesses will close up. The former state Agriculture Commissioner also mentioned that “the exact intent of this bill is to eliminate 189,000 jobs and 10,000 small businesses.”

The bill was sponsored by William Robinson, District 71’s Representative. Supporters of the bill were concerned about products with high concentrations of THC being sold to and consumed by minors. They wanted Florida’s legislators to help keep the kids safe. Nonetheless, business owners pushed back on it. 

House Rep. Robinson further noted that other states had recently imposed similar hemp restrictions. According to their state’s website, Connecticut has a THC cap of 5 milligrams per dose as of 2021. According to their state’s health department’s website, Louisiana has pegged its THC cap to 8 milligrams per serving.

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Marijuana Venture’s release in 2021 shows that most states have set a limit of 5-10 milligrams per serving of THC and 50-100 milligrams per package. However, other states have a much higher limit. Illinois has a limit of 500 milligrams per package, and Montana has a limit of 800 milligrams.

Hemp Businesses React to the Bill

Many hemp entrepreneurs all across Florida made a trek to Tallahassee to stand against the legislative protocol. They explained that hemp businesses were already adhering to the regulation of not selling to the underaged and not using attractive packaging. Thus, the THC cap would only be hurting their source of livelihood.

Florida’s hemp program began in 2019 after the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, making hemp production and distribution legal. The hemp industry has recorded great yield in its use to produce biomass that contains cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is a non-psychoactive ingredient in hemp that is used to treat health issues like anxiety and stress.  

Vendors and patients say that the measures imposed by HB 1475 would make hemp products such as oils, tinctures, CBD pre-rolls, and gummies completely ineffective for their therapeutic purpose. Much more, every form of hemp, including CBD, HHC, CBN, and practically all hemp-derived products, would be eliminated.

There are concerns that the bill would give an unfair competitive advantage to the medical cannabis industry. There are also claims that the legislation is being pushed by a Tallahessee-based medical cannabis company to gain a monopoly. With hemp products off the market, patients that need them will be forced to purchase medical cannabis. And those who can’t afford it will move to the illicit market. 

Rick Roth, Palm Beach House Republican, described the initial bill as a dangerous precedent that would cause a medical marijuana monopoly. He further explained that the hemp industry needs to be allowed to provide good service to people. Also, the bill would only make the industry go dark.

Hemp business owners in Florida have breathed a sigh of relief. The revised bill has been approved by the Senate and is currently on its way to the governor’s desk for consideration.

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