Lawmakers seek to legalize industrial hemp

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Two Democratic lawmakers have breathed new life into an effort to legalize hemp as an agricultural crop in Florida.

Proponents of the program are pitching it as an economic boost to Florida.

Sen. Jeff Clemens of West Palm Beach and Rep. Michelle Rehwinkle Vasilinda of Tallahassee, who filed similar bills during the regular session earlier this year, are backing measures for the 2016 session (SB 544, HB 271) that would allow farmers to grow industrial hemp, used for more than 12,000 years for food, textiles and paper, according to a Senate staff analysis.

Under the measure, growers who register with the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services could sow cannabis with a maximum of 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. THC levels in marijuana that causes euphoria generally range from 3 percent to 20 percent, according to the staff analysis.

At least 13 other states have authorized industrial hemp programs.

Three Senate committees approved the plan during the regular session that ended in May, but it withered at its fourth stop.