Hemp farming jumps another hurdle

TALLAHASSEE — Although the wheels of progress are turning slowly, they are moving, as last week another bill involving the legality of growing hemp was passed by the Florida Legislature. SB 1020 creates Florida’s hemp program and authorizes the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to enact regulations and govern the program.


In December 2018, the federal Farm Bill was passed, and it seemed as though after more than 80 years, it would soon be legal for Americans to grow hemp. The 2018 farm bill was signed by President Donald Trump on Thursday, Dec. 20. Until 1937, hemp was grown in America with no restrictions. It was used, and still is, for construction materials, footwear, clothing, fuel, food, animal feed, plastic, paint and organic body care products and more. As a matter of fact, according to the UltraCell website, “the first drafts of the Declaration of Independence were crafted on hemp paper.”


But although that bill passed, there were more hurdles to jump, and American farmers have been patiently waiting for the government to take care of business. SB 1020 makes it possible for farmers to apply for and obtain permits to cultivate hemp. The bill specifies that hemp is an agricultural commodity and that hemp-derived products are not controlled substances. The bill will take effect on July 1, 2019.


Some of those most excited about the passage of the new bill allowing hemp to once again be grown in the U.S. are those who are proponents of hemp’s medicinal benefits. Although not FDA approved, hemp has been used for thousands of years for medicinal purposes. As Allen Patterson, a CBD consultant and researcher, explained, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a biological system that plays many important roles in the human body. “Endo” means originating within the body, and “cannabinoid” refers to the compounds that activate this system. Research indicates that the endocannabinoid system helps regulate many functions of the human body such as memory, temperature, mood, digestion, pain, appetite, cardiovascular function and many others. This system plays a crucial role in regulating our physiology and mood, he said.


In the early 1970s, it was discovered that the human body has neurological receptors, and in the late 1980s, the St. Louis University School of Medicine did a study which found that these neurological transmitters reacted positively to compounds found in cannabis. These transmitters were called cannabinoid receptors. Both CBD, which is usually derived from hemp, and THC, which is derived from cannabis sativa, affect the ECS.


Although hemp and marijuana both come from the same species, explains Mr. Patterson, they differ genetically. Marijuana (cannabis sativa) has a high THC content, while hemp has less than 0.3 percent. Hemp and marijuana are the same in the same way a poodle and a German shepherd are the same. The poodle and the German shepherd are both dogs. Marijuana and hemp are both cannabises, but they are not identical, and they do not have identical properties or traits.


There are probably 1,700 to 1,900 companies selling CBD now, said Mr. Patterson. The other day, he saw someone selling some in an unlabeled bottle. “That is a huge red flag,” he said. “CBD can be made from either hemp or marijuana,” said Mr. Patterson. “That’s what got the grandma in Orlando in trouble. If you are going to carry it around with you, make sure you buy it from a company that tests every batch because you don’t want an officer to do a field test and have it come up over the limit and put you in jail for 12 hours.” The company he works with and about 20 other companies have gotten together to establish standards for self-regulating compliance. Several states have very strong labeling requirements, he said. They require certain things on the label in order for it to be sold in a retail environment. Look for a QR code, he said. This will take you to a lab analysis. That’s a requirement in multiple states. Very soon you will see a stamp of approval from the U.S. Hemp Authority Certified. That should happen in a month or so, he said.


“If you don’t see that stamp, I’d be very cautious about using that product.”

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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