Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature have continued to liberalize Florida’s treatment of cannabis. After previously lifting the prohibition on smoking medical marijuana, the Legislature passed and Governor DeSantis signed Senate Bill 1020, which legalized hemp effective July 1, 2019.

Senate Bill 1020 does a number of critical things. It deems hemp and hemp-derived cannabinoids, including cannabidiol (CBD), to be agriculture products, not controlled substances. It sets forth a framework for cultivators to apply to the Florida Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services for licenses to grow hemp. And it allows for the retail sale of hemp-derived products like CBD that meet certain testing and labeling requirements.

The Florida Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services is currently working on regulations for hemp cultivation and the (legal) retail market will take some time to develop, but elected officials are already promising big things. According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried issued a post-passage press release stating “Florida has the potential to become the gold standard on hemp – our deep agricultural heritage, climate and resources, and farming infrastructure will make Florida a national leader in this emerging new economy.”

We will continue to monitor developments in Florida. Marijuana legalization advocates have looked longingly at the Sunshine State for some time, both for its advantageous cultivation conditions and its large potential retail market. Senate Bill 1020 is another incremental step in the right direction and makes full legalization look more likely in the near future.