Florida Veterans and Patients Worried Hemp Industry Could Go ‘Up in Smoke’

Florida veterans and patients are calling for Florida lawmakers to vote NO on legislation that aims to regulate the Florida hemp industry!

Two bills, HB 1475 and SB 1676 introduced by Senator Colleen Burton and Representative William Robinson, would reclassify hemp extract as “a food that requires time and temperature control for safety and integrity of product” and impose several regulations that would re-regulate the Florida Hemp industry.

The Florida legislature passed laws to regulate hemp back in 2019 and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has been regulating the Florida Hemp industry ever since. However, there has been a regime change, Florida recently elected Wilton Simpson as Commissioner of Agriculture and it seems like Simpson, Burton, and Robinson are all working to re-regulate the industry. Both bills, that have been recently introduced, have passed their first committees and are working their way strong through the Florida legislature.

The argument to re-regulate hemp in Florida seems to be fueled by a fear that a THC derivative, called Delta-8 THC, could possibly end up in the hands of children. Delta-8 THC is similar to the type of THC you find in medical marijuana, which is called Delta-9 THC. However, Delta-8 THC is about 50% to 75% of the potency of Delta-9 and is often referred to as “diet weed”. The proposed bills would regulate the levels of THC in hemp products rather ineffective amounts. Currently the bill only allows for 5 milligrams of Delta-8 THC per serving and 50 mg per container. 

During the bills first committee hearing in the Senate, Burton introduced the bill as a bill that is “pro children” with the intention of protecting kids from harmful substances.

Hemp advocates claim the proposal is a attempt by “big cannabis” to shut down the competing hemp industry. Especially since cannabis legalization seems to be making its way to the 2024 ballot. That the goal of the legislation is not to protect kids from harmful products but rather to put hemp companies out of business so people would buy more medical marijuana! An attempt to “smoke” the competition before the Florida cannabis market opens to adult use!

In the bills first committee hearing in the House, Robinson introduced the bill as a “stay in your lane bill”. Claiming that the state has put forth a medical marijuana program and the hemp industry shouldn’t be able to compete with them. “If this is an effort to push our customers from hemp to medical marijuana, I think it is pretty misguided,” explains Carlos Hermida, owner and founder of Chillum Mushroom and Hemp Dispensary,

“What Robinson might not understand is that our customers buy hemp because they can’t afford medical marijuana. Medical marijuana is an over regulated and overpriced system in Florida, if they try to push people from hemp to medical marijuana, they are just going to push people to the black market. My sickest customers will become criminals overnight.”

The Florida Medical Marijuana program has been overseen by the Department of Health since it passed back in 2016 and Floridians voted a constitutional amendment into law in order to ensure Floridians had the right to cannabis as medicine. Although over 60% of Floridians voted in favor of medical marijuana, the program offers a very limited and vertically integrated system that has only allowed for few players to join the cannabis industry.

Currently there are only 22 licensed Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTC) in the state of Florida and very few are up and running. The limited number of licenses, and high demand, has allowed the MMTCs to set a high price for their product. There is also several doctor visits that the patient has to attend, once every seven months, and milligram limits that have been imposed by the state that limit what the patient can purchase and when. Hemp has offered these patients a safe and healthy alternative to the strict Florida medical cannabis system.

Many patients and veterans are starting to speak up!

“We should have the Freedom to chose hemp for medical use! I believe as a US Marine Combat Veteran, we fought to give patients of this glorious state the right to choose.”, says Pablo Bicca, aka the 1620 Marine, “This hemp bill will force thousands of veterans and patients’ insufficient amount of legal plant medicine to treat and combat mental and physical obstacles, eventually resulting in pharmaceuticals and illegal treatments.”

Pablo Bicca is not only a veteran himself but also spends much of his time, as the 1620 Marine, educating other veterans on the benefits of cannabinoid therapy whether from hemp or medical marijuana. 1620 represents the cannabis community for veterans and first responders and supporters. His mission is to equip our brave veteran women and men with education about the natural & holistic benefits of cannabis and how its properties can help combat the mental and physical stressors of being on and off duty.

The most pressing issues concerning patients, regarding these hemp bills, is the idea of putting a restriction on THC that is derived from hemp. Although the bills are disguised as having the intention of protecting children, the entire concept of “stay in your lane” suggests that the real intention is to ensure that hemp is less effective as the states medical marijuana system. Yes the MMTCs paid hefty licensing fees to dispense cannabis legally in the state of Florida and hemp does compete with that. However, the sad reality is its veterans and patients that will suffer with THC restrictions on hemp.

“Since 2012 I’ve been consistently on chemo,” explains Lindsey Scholl, a South Florida resident who has been diagnosed with breast cancer that eventually has spread to the lungs, lymph nodes, bones, and liver, “One thing I always think about is the Ron DeSantis commercial where his wife talks about how he would pick her up when she didn’t have the strength. That is exactly what my life was like for years.” 

After undergoing several surgeries, medications and suffering several side effects, Scholl decided to try the States medical marijuana system with unsatisfactory results.  However, Scholl found relief from Hemp based CBD and Delta-8 THC!

“My whole life changed!”, explained Scholl, “ It was like a miracle medicine for me. I travel now and am actively involved in my kid’s day to day life. I typically take 300mg everyday in the morning to eliminate my daily pain and side effects of chemotherapy!”

As stated earlier the bills currently only allow for 50 mg of Delta-8 per container, only 5 mg per dose! These are considerably small when considering the amount the average hemp customer utilizes. It would require Scholl to consume 6 containers of hemp products every morning. Originally the bill had .5 mg of Delta-8 THC per dose and was amened to the current levels.

The former Florida Commissioner of Agriculture who instituted the program when the original hemp regulations passed in 2019 was Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is currently the head of the Democratic Party of Florida, was eager to make hemp an “industrial revolution” for the state of Florida.

Fried expressed concern about Florida’s veteran and patient population concerning the proposed hemp bills:

“Millions of Floridians are receiving relief from hemp products all over the state. These patients are seeking affordable and safe products who may otherwise not qualify for the overly restrictive medical cannabis program. These patients are getting off pharmaceutical drugs and their lives will be drastically impacted if these products are no longer available. We created a program in our state with our patients in mind.”

Currently HB 1475 has 2 more committees to pass in the Florida house and SB 1676 only has a Fiscal policy committee to pass in the Florida Senate. Once passed committees the bills will be up for a vote by the legislator and finally, if passed, would wind up on Governor Ron DeSantis’ desk. If signed by the governor would be set into law.

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