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Government and Administrative

Florida to Begin Issuing Hemp Cultivation Licenses

Starting April 27, 2020, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will begin accepting applications from Florida farmers seeking to obtain licenses to cultivate and produce hemp. This comes after the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved Florida’s long-awaited  hemp cultivation plan on April 16, 2020.

Florida is now one of sixteen states authorized by the USDA to regulate hemp cultivation and production. Until the passage of the Federal Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill), the cultivation of hemp was prohibited nationwide as it was classified as a Schedule I Drug under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 which did not differentiate hemp from marijuana. However, Congress removed hemp as a statutorily defined Schedule I Drug and legalized the cultivation of “industrial hemp” with the passage of the Farm Bill, so long as it contains a  tetrahydrocannabinol concentration, or THC, of “not more than 0.3 percent.” See 7 U.S.C. § 1639. The Farm Bill also authorized states to regulate hemp production provided that each state implement a regulatory plan that satisfies federal statutory requirements and is approved by the USDA. See 7 U.S.C. § 1639p(b)(1). Florida was quick to respond as Governor Ron DeSantis legalized the cultivation of hemp and hemp-derivatives through the signing of SB 1020 in June of 2019. Codified as section 581.217, Florida Statutes, Florida’s hemp law delegates rulemaking and regulatory authority to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (“FDACS”).

As approved by the USDA, Florida’s hemp cultivation plan requires those seeking to cultivate hemp to apply for a non-transferrable license issued through FDACS. Fla. Admin. Code R. 5B-57.014. Each application must include a detailed description of the land intended to be used for the cultivation of hemp as FDACS and the USDA are authorized by law to conduct random inspections of the premises. Hemp cultivation licenses must be renewed annually and will expire following twelve months after issuance. Hemp cultivation applications can be accessed here.

Once licensed, growers may only cultivate hemp seeds that have been purchased from either a “certified agency” or from a or a “university conducting an industrial hemp pilot project.” Fla. Stat. § 581.217(6). Presently, only the University of Florida and Florida A&M University have established hemp “pilot projects.” Importantly, growers are not allowed to plant clone seeds from their own hemp crop and must apply for an additional license if they intend to sell cultivars of previously germinated seeds purchased from a certified dealer or pilot program. Finally, mirroring the Federal Farm Bill, hemp may only be distributed and sold in the state of Florida if each product contains a total THC concentration of 0.3 percent or less. The full list of FDACS requirements for hemp cultivation can be found here.

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