Barring any unforeseen events, by the end of April 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture should have approved Florida’s proposed hemp cultivation rules (located at 5B-57.014, F.A.C.). Once this occurs, any person interested in growing/cultivating hemp can apply for a license from the State and, once approved, begin growing hemp.
Licensing and Cultivation Rules
To be eligible for a license under the proposed rules, you must first fill out an application and provide the following information:
- A description of the property you intend to use for the cultivation of hemp, including address, legal description, tax parcel number, and GPS coordinates.
- A receipt showing that each person who has “control” and “responsibility” for the operation has received Livescan Fingerprinting and background checks; and
- An environmental containment plan showing containment systems to prevent hemp from spreading from the licensed land, a plan for cleaning equipment before it is removed from the land, and a transportation plan to ensure all hemp is contained during any off-site movement.
Once the application is approved and the license issued, it will need to be renewed annually. To actually grow hemp, cultivators must comply with the cultivation requirements set forth by rule. These include the following:
- Complying with the environmental containment plan;
- Complying with the Hemp Waste Disposal Manual;
- Maintaining documents describing the varieties of hemp cultivated for three years after harvest;
- Maintaining the certification, label, and receipts for all Certified hemp seed or Certified hemp cultivars for three years after harvest.
- Use only Certified hemp seed or Certified hemp cultivars or nursery stock from a Florida licensed hemp nursery;
- Only cultivate hemp on lands that are only used for a bona fide agricultural purpose or are zoned agricultural or industrial;
- Follow signage requirements; and
- Identify each hemp cultivation lot with a unique numerical identification number.
Finally, prior to harvest, a representative sample of the crop must be tested to ensure it is not “hot” (i.e., containing more THC than is allowed by law.) 5B-57.014(8), F.A.C.
Currently, there are only two sources of “certified” seeds for potential hemp growers to obtain their seeds from: 1) seeds that have been certified by the Association of Official Seed Analysts (“AOSA”) or 2) “pilot project hemp seeds” from an approved Florida college or university. 5E-4.016, F.A.C.
This provides a conundrum for growers trying to determine which seeds to invest in. Currently, no AOSA certified seeds are from Florida. They are from other states with very different climates than Florida (e.g., Colorado, California, Washington, etc.). This poses a real concern as to how these seeds will tolerate the Flroida weather, if these seeds will end up producing “hot” hemp when grown in the different climate, or if they will produce the proper germination rate.
Meanwhile, the “pilot project” seeds have only gone through one or two growth cycles – cycles that were done under scientific, university settings. How these seeds will react when grown in the “wild” is still unknown.
This means that cultivators should carefully scrutinize their seed purchasing contracts and negotiate with seed suppliers to ensure that if the hemp ends up “hot” or with improper germination rates, the cultivator can receive refunds or new seeds.
Additionally, some labs are offering discounts on additional testing. While Florida only requires one test right before harvest, labs like Kaycha Labs are offering discounts on testing when four tests are ordered per growth cycle. This early and often testing allows for remediation and potentially salvaging the crop.
In short, until Florida has tried and true seeds of its own, how these seeds will grow is a big uncertainty that cultivators should be prepared for and should take steps to mitigate against.
Hemp cultivation in Florida is right around the corner. If you are considering cultivating hemp, now is the time to begin the process. If you have any questions about obtaining the license, complying with the applicable laws, or dealing with the business and contracting end of cultivation, you should contact an attorney at Smith & Associates to discuss your rights and options.