By: Jason Beck, for High at 9 News
Published: Tuesday March 21, 2023
If you want to write and file a bill in Florida that fulfills a corporate special interest agenda, the devil is in the details.
On March 4, SB 1676 and HB 1475, filed by Sen. Colleen Burton R-Polk County (Chair of the Health Policy in the Florida Senate), and Rep. Will Robinson R-Bradenton/Manatee County, would clarify legislative intent regarding the plant and its derivatives, including defining hemp extract as “a food that requires time and temperature control for safety and integrity of product.” The bill was written to create a regulatory framework to increase the safety of the product sold outside of the 22 licensed Medical Cannabis treatment centers, or MMTC’s, the vertically integrated multi-million dollar businesses, many of which are Multi-State Organizations (But the motivation behind the development of these bills has less to do with the safety of the public and more about the corporate greed of the MMTCs, and of which have been impatiently waiting for the billion dollar Adult Use Market to finally come to Florida. But, in defining “synthetic cannabinoids” in the language of the bill, it has the potential to ban the sale and possession of federally legal hemp products such as Hemp derived Delta 8, Delta 9, and THCA flower. Anyone who currently owns or uses such products could commit a felony if the bill were to become law. This would include many ordinary citizens who use hemp products for health and wellness purposes and who do not wish to enter the Florida medical cannabis registry. Some of the products that would be affected includeHemp-derived delta 8 and 9 edibles, Hemp-derived delta 8 vapes, CBD and CBD Edibles and THCA Hemp Flower Cannabis Researcher Dr. Greg Gerdeman, indicated that the new definition of hemp extract included, “Exceeds 0.5 milligrams total tetrahydrocannabinol per dose or 2 milligrams total tetrahydrocannabinol per container” … That would ax the hemp gummy industry. As well as every full spectrum hemp tincture.” He continued, “As written, this could arguably prohibit any hemp extract product. It kind of depends, I think, on when the extract is considered complete, or if industry-standard processing steps would be overlooked as just the initial process “in progress.” Any extract is going to be distilled to remove solvent, which is simultaneously concentrating the cannabinoids and any other components that aren’t boiled off.” In fact, the more you look into the details of the bills, the more you realize that this bill was intended to destroy the hemp extract market that stands as competition to the MMTC. In fact, it was written by one. In a recent conversation, former Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried admonished the legislators filing and moving the bills forward. “Amazing how the allegedly small business supporting Republicans want to shut down a booming new industry to protect the medical marijuana monopolies.” And when asked about the origins, she noted, “This is all Trulieve, and needs to be called out.”
The identical bill was filed in Arizona, and Trulieve has admitted that it was responsible for that filing. Although they have not admitted to writing and lobbying for the Florida bill, it should be noted that Kim Rivers, CEO of Trulieve, oversees all government affairs liaison efforts in Florida for the company. The impact of this bill would be huge. It has the potential of creating thousands of felons as the market goes “Legacy” and can impact the 700 retailers in Florida that generate millions in tax revenue for the state, as well as employing thousands of workers. Multiply that by the 7 states that now have similar bills of similar origins, and the impact of corporate greed will be felt across the country. The Florida Healthy Alternatives Association has already begun to combat the bills and has raised over $1M to lobby against the efforts. The first hearing for the bill will be in the Senate Health Policy Committee, chaired by bill sponsor Burton.
The House version has yet to be scheduled for its first committee.