Cannabis director expects 1st Florida hemp crop by 2020

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Holly Bell, the Florida Department of Agriculture's director of cannabis, said he's optimistic a hemp program will be in place by 2020.

Florida farmers, investors and entrepreneurs all have their eyes on hemp.

“It's safer and it's extremely durable too if you were to talk about clothing, infrastructure and building,” said Braden Ward, a senior at Florida Southern College.

Ward drove three hours to hear from Bell about how the hemp industry might look in Florida. The hemp bill passed in May will legalize hemp and its byproducts, like CBD, in Florida. 

It’s expected to be a multibillion dollar industry.

“Industrial hemp has 25,000 known uses today,” said Bell.

In addition to the numerous uses, supporters also hope hemp will become a supplemental crop for panhandle farmers hit hard by Hurricane Michael.

Gov. Ron DeSantis still has to sign the hemp bill into law. After that, the Department of Agriculture would have to develop rules before the industry can get started.

Bell said the hemp industry will be a horizontal system, allowing people to get involved in any part of the process, unlike medical marijuana where license holders have to own everything from seed to sale.

She said it will ensure the industry open to everyone.

“From multimillion, billion dollar companies to a farmer with five acres,” said Bell.

Bell said she anticipates the state will see its first official harvest in 2020, but said it will be a multi year process for the industry and market to fully bloom.

Once the governor signs the bill, the Department of Agriculture will begin gathering public input from around the state to help guide the rule-making process.