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'Florida's Hemp Industry Officially Begins Now': State Can Now Accept Applications To Grow Industrial Hemp

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) -- Federal officials have approved Florida's plan for a hemp program, clearing the way for the state to accept applications from farmers to grow industrial hemp.

State Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, whose department is overseeing the hemp program, issued a statement saying "We are thrilled that Florida's hemp industry officially begins now."

The state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will begin accepting applications to grow hemp on April 27.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved Florida's plan Thursday.

A 2018 federal farm bill legalized hemp as an agricultural product after decades of debate about the issue.

Industrial hemp can be used in numerous products and is different from euphoria-causing marijuana, which remains illegal under federal law.

Florida lawmakers in 2019 passed a bill to take advantage of the federal farm law, creating a program to regulate cultivation of hemp. The state plan then needed federal approval.

"By working closely with our farmers, processors, retailers, and consumers, Florida's state hemp program will become a model for the nation, will set a gold standard for this emerging industry and will create billions in economic opportunity for Florida," Fried said in a prepared statement. "As our economy deals with the impacts of COVID-19, this approval will give our agriculture industry a new alternative crop for many years to come."

(©2020 CBS Local Media. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.)

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