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Red State
Red State
17 Feb 2024
Jeff Charles

NextImg:Nanny State Nonsense: Florida Legislature Set to Ban Certain Hemp Products

Florida’s state legislature is moving to pass a measure that would redefine the hemp industry in the state. The Senate passed a bill that would outlaw the sale of Delta-8 THC products as well as impose caps on the level of THC in hemp-derived products in the Sunshine State. The state House is set to pass the legislation in the near future.

The move to prohibit these products is being spearheaded by State Sen. Colleen Burton.

Hemp-derived THC products, also including delta-10 and THC-O products, have been sold in Florida for the past five years, but lawmakers are out to ban these products altogether.

The kinds of products that would be banned with this legislation sell incredibly well at head shops and smoke shops throughout Tampa Bay. But some sellers say they are being unfairly targeted.  

“Before you go and completely restrict it, get educated and see who it’s helping first,” Adam Wick, owner of Health Hemp Outlet in St. Petersburg, said.

Delta-8 THC, also known as “diet weed,” is derived from the same plant as Delta-9, which is the most commonly-recognized version of marijuana. It creates a similar psychoactive effect but is less potent than Delta-9. The product is sold in a variety of forms, including gummies, tinctures, vapes, and even flower forms.

The bill, SB 1698, not only aims to limit THC content but also seeks to shield minors by banning items that could be “attractive” to children. Despite the bipartisan support in the state legislature, the proposed legislation has ignited controversy. Critics of the bill argue that it would shutter thousands of businesses across the state and harm Floridians who rely on the product for pain relief and other medicinal uses.

Martha Bueno, CEO and co-founder of Our Good Products, spoke out against the proposal during a recent hearing. She argued that passing the bill “fails in a lot of ways,” and does not “follow through on SB 1676,” a measure that previously passed. The legislation puts in place provisions intended to prevent minors from consuming these products. She also pointed out that the bill “fails to protect the people who need this, like the elderly, the fastest-growing consumer segment,” who “find themselves between the black market and very high costs on limited incomes.”

Even further, Bueno went on to point out that the bill would adversely impact “over 10,000 already legally licensed and functioning business,” and would also shut down “a $16 billion taxable industry” while also “making over 150,000 current employees dependent on taxpayers.”

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There is also the issue of Constitutional rights. The 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause requires states to treat individuals and companies in similar industries equally. The bill’s differential treatment of hemp extract products based on arbitrary determinations on packaging could be akin to picking winners and losers. While nobody wants to see sellers providing these products to children, judgments related to making products “attractive to children” can be subjective in many cases. The fact of the matter is that there are already laws prohibiting vendors from selling these products to minors.

However, those supporting the legislation contend that it is vital for protecting adults and minors. State Sen. Burton explained that the state’s original hemp program did not take into account the level of intoxication caused by some of these products.

“When we passed the hemp program, it was not in anticipation of highly intoxicated, sometimes psychoactive substances being ingested by Floridians,” she said on the Senate floor on Wednesday, when the bill came up for consideration. “The concerns we have had over the potential misuses of this product I believe has exceeded our expectations. So that’s why we have this bill today to continue the protections that we started last session.”

As the Florida House prepares to vote on the bill, the future of the state’s hemp industry hangs in the balance. But even more, this bill would also take away another liberty that should not be under the purview of the government aside from ensuring that businesses are not furnishing these products to children. The legislation would needlessly criminalize untold numbers of Florida residents for willingly consuming a substance.

In the end, the law would outlaw a lucrative industry overnight without actually protecting anyone from harm. Even further, it would empower the government to be more involved in people’s everyday lives. The coming days will reveal whether Florida’s government will choose liberty or further empower the state.