DeSantis Likely To Veto Hemp Bill that Would Limit THC, Sources Say

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is an opponent of adult-use cannabis, but may save the hemp industry if he vetoes SB 1698.
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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to veto a hemp bill that aims to severely limit the sale of hemp-derived products containing delta-8 THC, delta-9 THC, and delta-10 THC—a bill many say would essentially wipe out the hemp industry.

Florida’s Senate Bill 1698, if signed into law, would restrict the sale of hemp products containing THC, “defining the term “total delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol concentration”; providing conditions for the manufacture, delivery, hold, offer for sale, distribution, or sale of hemp extract; prohibiting businesses and food establishments from possessing hemp extract products that are attractive to children; prohibiting the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services from granting permission to remove or use certain hemp extract products until it determines that such hemp extract products comply with state law, etc.”

CBS News reports that if he vetoes it, DeSantis would be developing a strategy like “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” That’s because the hemp industry is in direct conflict with the cannabis industry as both are sources of THC.

“It’s been flying under the radar, but he’s going to veto,” an unnamed source told CBS News. “The marijuana people are furious, and they are scrambling.”

“There was never a thought the Governor would veto the bill,” said a second source. “But they are now signaling that they are going to veto, and I think it would be fair to say he is leaning toward a veto.”

Supporting the hemp industry would be a strange move, given that DeSantis slammed a constitutional amendment to legalize cannabis in Florida.

DeSantis attacked a bill to legalize adult-use cannabis—Amendment 3—which would legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older and allow individuals to possess up to 3 ounces, and up to 5 grams of concentrate.

“The weed one is not just to decriminalize, it’s basically a license to have it anywhere you want,” he said. “No time, place and manner restrictions. This state will start to smell like marijuana in our cities and counties. It will reduce the quality of life.”

In 2016, Florida voters approved medical cannabis, but patients must be diagnosed by a doctor with a qualifying condition. 

Then the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp and lawmakers accidentally legalized intoxicating compounds like delta-8 THC. The hemp industry has taken off all across the country.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle seem to be in support of the hemp industry as well. Republican Party of Florida chair Evan Power, is spearheading the growth of the hemp industry. 

“I’ve had conversations with staff on the bill,” Power told CBS Miami. “And he is moving toward a decision. And we hope he doesn’t sign it.”

Florida Democratic Party chair Nikki Fried was a big supporter of hemp when she served as the state Agriculture Commissioner. “Expanding access to cannabis is a non-partisan issue with broad support in Florida,” Fried told CBS Miami. “Hemp products provide relief to millions of Floridians—including veterans, seniors, and patients with chronic pain. Any attempts at regulation should protect consumers, while considering the impact on accessibility for patients and the ability of small businesses to compete.”

Support for Adult-Use Cannabis in Florida

Florida’s vast potential for adult-use cannabis has been highly anticipated since the Sunshine State first moved to introduce medical cannabis in 2016. Trulieve contributed more than $40 million to the campaign, alongside an additional several million dollars from a handful of other medical cannabis treatment centers.

In Florida, measures must gain 60% support in order to pass. A new USA Today/Ipsos survey suggests that a majority of registered Florida voters, 56%, support the measure, with 49% of Florida adults overall. Forty percent said that they would vote against it, and just 4% said that they were unsure.

Democrats and independents were most supportive of the measure (69% and 63%, respectively), while 39% of registered Republican voters  said they would vote in favor of the measure. The survey also found that support varied by region, with those in central Florida more likely to say they are in favor of recreational cannabis legalization than those in north or south Florida (54%, 49%, and 38%, respectively).

While there are no differences in self-reported plans to vote for recreational cannabis legalization by gender or age, white Floridians were more likely than Hispanic Floridians to say they would vote in favor of recreational cannabis legalization later this year (55% vs. 32%, respectively).

Other polls were a bit more hopeful: A November 2023 poll from the University of North Florida found that 67% of respondents said they would vote yes on a constitutional amendment to allow adults in Florida to purchase and possess small amounts of cannabis for personal use. It also notes that 70% of respondents supported recreational cannabis in Florida as of Spring 2023 along with 76% showing support in Spring 2022.

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  1. I think I encountered some “ recreational marijuana” while driving the other day. “ it “ was slowly drifting into my lane !!!! Could not see or hear anything !! I hope our governor BANS the stuff !!!!

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