Florida’s Hemp Industry Under Siege: What You Need To Know About SB 1698

Mar 29, 2024

In recent years, interest in cannabinoids like Delta 8 THC, Delta 10 THC and CBD has surged, driven by increasing awareness of their potential health benefits. However, amid this growing market, concerns have emerged regarding the legal status and regulation of these compounds in Florida. Enter Senate Bill 1698, a bill that seeks to address these issues but also raises questions about its potentially devastating impact on the hemp industry and consumers. In this article, we’ll go over the details and implications of SB 1698, shedding light on its potential effects on the Sunshine State’s community and economy.

What are alternative cannabinoids: Delta 8 THC and CBD?

Delta 8, or delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, is a compound that naturally occurs in small quantities in hemp and cannabis plants. It is intoxicating, inducing relaxing, euphoric effects and is said to provide benefits such as relief from pain, anxiety, and inflammation. 

CBD, cannabidiol, is another naturally occurring compound found in hemp plants. It is non-intoxicating, meaning it does not produce the "high" typically associated with cannabis use. Research suggests that CBD may have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing), and neuroprotective properties. It has been studied for its potential effectiveness in managing various conditions, including chronic pain, anxiety disorders, epilepsy, insomnia, and certain skin conditions. 

Are Cannabinoids like Delta 8 and CBD Legal In Florida?

Yes, cannabinoids including Delta 8 and CBD are currently legal in Florida. This is thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, which federally legalized hemp products as long as they contain less than 0.3% Delta 9 THC by dry weight. Since then, individual states have taken these cannabinoids' legality into their own hands by either regulating, restricting, or outright banning them. 

Concerns Around The Hemp Industry

As Delta 8 and similar cannabinoids gain traction following the enactment of the 2018 Farm Bill, concerns about their safety have surfaced. Issues risen around products containing these cannabinoids include:

  • Product contamination
  • Mislabeling
  • Exceeding legal THC limits
  • Marketing strategies that could appeal to children

While there have been instances of negligence among certain companies, it's crucial to recognize that many reputable brands prioritize consumer safety. These companies often employ third-party testing and publicly disclose lab results to ensure product quality and transparency.

They also share in the concern for keeping these products out of the hands of minors, refraining from selling to them and ensuring their marketing doesn’t appeal to children. Advocates for hemp and cannabinoid legalization in Florida often stress the importance of clear, comprehensive laws that balance public safety with consumer access to beneficial products. 

What is SB1698?

Initially filed on January 5, 2024 by Sen. Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland, SB 1698 is a bill aimed at regulating the production, distribution, and sale of hemp extract products in Florida. The bill outlines regulations including manufacturing, testing, packaging, and labeling requirements as well as prohibition on sales to minors.

Apart from these, the bill also introduces stringent regulations that would deem products outside of them controlled substances. 

Ban Alternative Cannabinoids: This bill bans the sale of products containing alternative cannabinoids including Delta 8, Delta 10, HHC, THCa, THCp, THCv, and full spectrum CBD.

Total Delta-9-THC Concentration: The bill stipulates that hemp extract products must not exceed 5mg per serving and 50mg per container on a wet-weight basis or 0.3 % total Delta 9 THC concentration on a wet-weight basis, whichever is less.

Event Regulations: Before an event where hemp products are being sold, the event organizer must provide a list of the businesses selling or marketing them and verify that each one complies with regulations.

CBD CBN CBG THCv tinctures, edibles, vape

How This Could Affect Consumers Like You

What would this bill’s passage mean for consumers? For many individuals, access to these products is crucial for managing various health conditions, ranging from chronic pain to anxiety and seizures. If this bill were to pass, they’d no longer have access to them.

For instance, Mathew Wetzel, who owns a dispensary in Clearwater Beach is worried not only about keeping his business’s doors open, but also about his 12 year old son, who uses CBD for his seizures.

This could drive consumers to the illegal drug market, putting them at risk of purchasing potentially harmful or adulterated substances. As Rep. Hillary Cassiel, D-Hollywood put it during a house debate, “If we pass this bill, they are going to become criminals. They are going to depend on drug dealers so they can function normally. Is that what we really want?” 

The potential loss of access to these products would exacerbate existing health challenges and diminish the quality of life for many people who depend on them for symptom relief and improved well being. 

How This Would Affect The Hemp Industry

SB 1698 introduces stringent regulations that would present financial obstacles for thousands of Florida businesses, including hemp growers, manufacturers and distributors, and vape shops. 

An analysis conducted by Beau Whitney, Chief Economist at Whitney Economics, sheds light on the economic implications of banning cannabinoids in Florida. According to the report published in March 2023, the hemp-derived cannabinoid industry significantly contributes to the state's economy, generating over $10 billion in revenue. This includes revenue from retail, manufacturing, wholesale/distribution sectors, totaling $6.9 billion, $4.1 billion, and $1.9 billion, respectively.

The potential impact of legislation banning the manufacturing, distribution, and sales of hemp-derived cannabinoids would be devastating. It's estimated that:

  • 5,100 licensed hemp businesses would be forced to shut down, with an additional 1,037 relocating outside the state. 
  • This mass exodus would result in the loss of taxable business revenue amounting to approximately $8.9 billion. 
  • Over 64,964 workers, earning $7.3 billion in wages, would be displaced, losing their jobs and exacerbating the economic fallout.

The economic loss associated with this bill is projected to reach $11.4 billion, based on data from other states with similar legislation. These figures emphasize the significant negative impact SB 1698 would have on Florida's economy and the livelihoods of thousands of people dependent on the hemp industry. They also highlight the urgent need to consider alternative regulatory approaches that support industry growth while addressing legitimate public health concerns.

What Can You Do To Help?

Once signed SB 1698 would go into effect October 1, 2024. It’s not too late, you can still help stop this from happening. You can email or call Governor Ron DeSantis and express just how detrimental this bill would be for Florida’s community, economy, and hemp industry. 

Governor Ron DeSantis Email: GovernorRon.DeSantis@eog.myflorida.com

Governor Ron DeSantis Phone: (850) 717-9337

For more information on other ways you can help, head over to the FHAA (Florida Healthy Alternatives Association), a non profit organization that represents the interests of the hemp industry including individual businesses, dedicated farmers, manufacturers, and reputable retailers. Stay tuned as developments unfold and be proactive in shaping the future of Florida's hemp industry.

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