TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Hemp is a booming industry, but there’s one problem.
“All of the money has been leaving the State of Florida and going elsewhere,” said Gabe Suarez, owner of Natural Life, a Florida CBD chain.
Retailers of hemp products like Suarez don’t have any Florida product to carry.
“Every time one of my businesses purchases any kind of hemp, it’s purchasing it from a farm outside of the state,” said Suarez.
But soon that won’t be the case, with the Department of Agriculture accepting hemp cultivation applications as of Monday. 75 operations had already applied halfway through opening day.
“It only took people about 20 minutes to apply,” said Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried.
Fried anticipates the industry will grow exponentially.
“This could be a 20 to $30 billion industry here in the state, not only on the CBD production,” said Fried. "I mean we're already doing types of research talking about different ways to use it for plastic replacements and styrofoam replacements.”
Today, we launched our @FDACS Hemp Cultivation Licensing Portal, allowing interested growers to apply online.— Commissioner Nikki Fried (@NikkiFriedFL) April 27, 2020
As we’re building Florida’s #hemp program into a national leader, our new online application portal will help growers quickly & easily apply for licenses.
Read more ❇️
Many are hopeful hemp can provide a lifeline to Florida farmers who are destroying as much as 70 percent of their crops due to a lack of demand because of the coronavirus.
“Especially with so many in our agriculture community suffering. You know not only through COVID-19, but even beforehand,” said Fried.
Even if you don’t purchase hemp products yourself, the added revenue from the industry will help keep 'Fresh from Florida' produce on your shelves.
“This is an opportunity to create an alternative crop here for our state, bring in some significant revenues,” said Fried.
And Fried said Florida grown hemp products will also be safer for Florida consumers.
"You're getting what you're anticipating. Making sure there's no THC in there, making sure that there's actually CBD in there, that there's not metals involved or other types of chemicals that would be harmful to an individual,” said Fried.
The crop takes about four months to grow, so you can expect to see Florida grown product on retailers shelves by mid Summer or early Fall.
Hemp cultivation must take place on land zoned for agriculture or industrial purposes and applicants cannot have felony narcotics charges within the past ten years.
To apply for a license, click here.