Industrial hemp, such as this, can now be grown legally at approved sites, such as several of the University of Florida’s research centers. Soon, others, including farmers and consumers, will be able to grow it legally. / Courtesy UF/IFAS

The Treasure Coast Lionfish Safari has, for years, been held in conjunction with National Hemp History Week. But this year, the Lionfish Safari, set for June 7-9 at the Fort Pierce City Marina, will have a more-than-its-usual upbeat mood.

“To celebrate the end of hemp prohibition, the Safari will have a HempTown, with demos, displays, exhibits and info about all things hemp-related,” says T.A. Wyner, a Fort Pierce resident and long an outspoken advocate of reducing regulations on cannabis. “Bob Clayton, the ‘hempcrete’ home-builder, will be a part of the celebration, as will the host of HempTown, the Florida Cannabis Action Network” (FLCAN).

HempTown will be at River Walk Center, which is at 600 N. Indian River Drive, about four-tenths of a mile north of the city marina.

Florida CAN
Ethel Rowland (left), president and CEO of the Florida Cannabis Action Network (FLCAN), explains the benefits of hemp to Hugh and Linda Conaghan of Port St. Lucie at the 2017 Treasure Coast Lionfish Safari. / FFF file photo

Clayton, a retired mechanical engineer who built Florida’s first home made of “hempcrete,” has been striving for years to ensure that industrial hemp — Cannabis sativa — is legal to grow in Florida. “I worked on legislation because farmers weren’t getting an honest break from the special interests working Tallahassee. It took five years, but we finally got a hemp bill to let farmers farm.”

The new law, recently passed by the Florida Legislature, becomes effective July 1. (After that, although farmers will need only a simple permit to grow industrial hemp after that date, they will first have to wait until the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services writes the rules for issuing those permits.)

high hopes for hemp
This hempcrete brick was made with hemp shivs, lime (as a binding agent), and water. Bob Clayton’s Tarpon Springs home is made of hempcrete and meets all building requirements, including hurricane codes. / FFF file photo

Consumers don’t need to wait for Dept. of Ag rules

However, the average person will have no such waiting period, Clayton adds. “People will be able to buy and sell hemp and hemp extracts. There will be no restrictions on hemp extracts, aside from keeping THC below the 0.3% limit, a limit recognized by international convention, and improving the quality testing and labeling.”

(To read the story on Clayton’s innovative home and see photos of it, visit floridafoodandfarm.com/farm/tarpon-springs-man-lives-floridas-first-hempcrete-home.)

Industrial hemp is not marijuana

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychoactive ingredient in recreational cannabis. Because industrial hemp is very low in THC, it does not create the “high” that recreational cannabis does.

Perhaps the best news of all will be the positive effect on Florida’s economy. The new law, as of July 1, will remove industrial hemp from Florida’s Controlled Substances Act and, Clayton explains, “create a program compliant with Washington’s 2018 Farm Bill provisions for hemp programs. It compares favorably with most other state bills, so we can compete with them on a level playing field. It will build a multibillion-dollar industry for Florida, creating thousands of jobs.”

What will HempTown feature?

This year, the new HempTown will provide vendors and literature about hemp. Says Ethel Rowland, president and chief executive officer of the Florida Cannabis Action Network (FLCAN), “We plan to have an installation of hemp materials and products from across the state. It is my understanding that anyone vending will have a separate space. The most complete and current information about hemp and its legality in Florida will also be available.”

In addition, “goodie bags” containing a wide variety of products will be distributed, notes T.A. Wyner. “They’ll include organic coconut water, instant miso, and other organic foods donated by the founder and owner of Edward & Sons organic foods, Joel Dee.”

Wyner adds that all potential vendors of hemp or hemp products are invited to display their wares at the Treasure Coast Lionfish Safari.

A growing movement

Other states are joining the growing group that allow industrial-hemp production. On May 10, 2019, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed such a bill. The federal 2018 Farm Bill loosened but did not eliminate restrictions against growing industrial hemp; last year’s bill also removed hemp from the United States’ Controlled Substances Act.

For more information about the Lionfish Safari, including vendor forms and a schedule of events, visit www.treasurecoastlionfishsafari.com.

For information about the Florida Cannabis Action Network, visit flcan.org or https://www.facebook.com/FloridaCAN.

For information about National Hemp History Week, visit www.hemphistoryweek.com.

To watch a 15-minute video on the history of hemp in America, click below.