© 2021 WLRN
MIAMI | SOUTH FLORIDA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
News
In South Florida, where the Everglades meet the bays, environmental challenges abound. Sea level rise threatens homes and real estate. Invasive species imperil native plants and animals. Pesticides reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases, but at what cost? WLRN's award-winning environment reporting strives to capture the color and complexity of human interaction with one of the most biodiverse areas of the planet.

Hemp Farming Gets Thumbs Up From Florida Senate Committee

Hemp_crops.jpg
Paul/Flickr
/

A product made from cannabis could become one of Florida’s top crops: A bill in Tallahassee would allow Florida farmers to grow hemp.

Robert Clayton finished construction last year on a house made of hemp in Tarpon Springs. It’s thought to be the first of its kind in Florida. He testified at a Senate hearing about his research for the Hemp Industries Association.

“Farming and processing can add $460 million to Florida’s annual GDP,” Clayton told the Senate Agriculture Committee. “That represents about 600 to 1,000 farms in Florida that might add hemp to their rotation, and that added income can save their family farms.”

Hemp is used for food, clothing, even makeup. It does not get the user high like marijuana. Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) is sponsoring the bill.

“The marijuana that’s grown for medicinal or for recreational purpose has certain kinds of buds of flowers that have a higher level of THC – that psychoactive property,” Clemens told the Senate Agriculture Committee. “Hemp is grown and bred to be more fibrous. The stalk of the plant is what’s important, so it’s low THC or no THC, almost.” 

Sen. Dwight Bullard (D-Cutler Bay) voted to add hemp to Florida’s list of crops.

“The way it’s been explained to me in very simple layman’s terms is you’re talking about a plant that has the strength of bamboo but the malleability of cotton,” Bullard said.

The agriculture committee unanimously approved the bill after hearing public testimony. No one spoke against it.

“From my perspective, somebody’s making a profit off of it, and it isn’t Floridians,” Clemens said. “Twenty-nine other states are sending their hemp products here to Florida rather than us allowing our farmers and agricultural folks to grow it here.”  

Hemp growers would have to pay a registration fee to the agriculture department and allow the state to conduct inspections.

The bill has more committees to pass before being heard by the full House and Senate.