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DeSantis's Shocking Veto: The Hidden Agenda Behind Protecting Florida's Hemp Industry

Hemp growers and sellers across Florida are letting out a small collective sigh of relief—for now. Governor Ron DeSantis is reportedly expected to veto Senate Bill 1698, a move that would protect the state’s hemp industry from severe restrictions.

The bill, if passed, would have banned hemp-derived products and dealt a crippling blow to the industry. According to CBS News, DeSantis’s anticipated veto has left many puzzled, considering his known disapproval of a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana in Florida. However, some theorize that this unexpected move might have ulterior motives.

Florida Statutes define "hemp" as coming from the plant Cannabis sativa L., including its seeds, derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers. Hemp is distinct from marijuana due to its low concentration of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component in cannabis that produces a "high." By law, hemp must contain no more than 0.3% THC on a dry-weight basis.

This distinction has allowed hemp-derived products, especially those containing cannabidiol (CBD), to thrive. Unlike THC, CBD does not induce a euphoric feeling and is touted for its potential health benefits, including relief from anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, and arthritis.

Senate Bill 1698 aimed to redefine "hemp extract" to exclude synthetic and naturally occurring substances like delta-8 THC and delta-10 THC. The bill also sought to impose stricter regulations on the distribution and sale of hemp extracts, requiring independent lab testing to certify that products do not exceed the legal THC limit and are free from contaminants. The bill’s passage would have effectively banned popular hemp-derived products, significantly impacting the industry.

DeSantis's expected veto of SB 1698 may seem contradictory given his stance on marijuana legalization. A recent USA Today/Ipsos poll shows that 56% of registered Florida voters support legalizing recreational cannabis, while 40% oppose it.

The recreational marijuana amendment, known as Amendment 3, will appear on the November 2024 ballot and requires a 60% supermajority to pass. Some political analysts suggest that by vetoing the bill, DeSantis aims to maintain the support of hemp users, who might be less motivated to vote for marijuana legalization if their preferred hemp products are still available.

DeSantis’s maneuver highlights the delicate balance between supporting the hemp industry and opposing marijuana legalization. Hemp has been federally legal since the 2018 Farm Bill, which allowed the cultivation and sale of hemp products nationwide.

In contrast, marijuana remains illegal under federal law, with states adopting varying stances on its medical and recreational use. By protecting the hemp industry, DeSantis may be attempting to placate a segment of the electorate without fully endorsing broader cannabis legalization.

The potential veto’s impact on Amendment 3 is still uncertain. While some believe it could demotivate hemp product users from supporting marijuana legalization, others argue that the growing acceptance of cannabis might override such strategic calculations.

The amendment, if passed, would allow adults over 21 to possess up to three ounces of marijuana and up to five grams of cannabis concentrate. However, its implementation could face delays due to the need for legislative regulation and possible legal challenges.

Governor DeSantis’s anticipated veto of SB 1698 reflects a complex political strategy aimed at balancing the interests of the hemp and marijuana communities in Florida. By protecting the hemp industry, DeSantis may be trying to secure support from hemp users while maintaining his opposition to broader cannabis legalization.

As Florida prepares for the 2024 ballot, the interplay between hemp legislation and marijuana legalization will continue to shape the state’s political landscape.

Do you support Governor DeSantis's decision to veto the hemp bill?

  • Yes, it protects the hemp industry.

  • No, it complicates marijuana legalization efforts.

  • Unsure, I need more information.


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