Before entering our store, every customer must walk past a sign notifying them that they must be at least 21 years old to purchase our products.

As general manager of a Tallahassee-based hemp manufacturer and distributor, I know our store takes this age limit seriously because these products are intended for adult use and should never be inadvertently ingested by children.

I’m not aware of anyone opposed to any efforts that will increase child safety when it comes to hemp products.

However, legislation moving through the Capitol under the guise of protecting children seems to be a Trojan horse actually trying to protect monopolies while imposing arbitrary THC caps and new regulations that could jeopardize thousands of Florida jobs.

Last year the Florida Legislature worked with our industry to develop a solid foundation so safe hemp products could succeed in a competitive adult-use market. The consensus between legislators and the industry was that children should not have access to hemp products, which is why — much like with alcoholic beverages — an age limit of 21 was imposed. We also can’t sell any products that look like candy, snacks, or anything else with a design that appeals to children.

As evidenced by “Operation Kandy Krush” carried out by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the new law is working. Thanks to last year’s law, this FDACS operation was able to remove nearly 70,000 products from shelves that targeted children through product design or packaging.

The new procedures are working — so why, less than a year later, is the Legislature already proposing more regulations for the industry when last year’s legislation hasn’t even finished its rule-making process?

SB 1698 and HB 1613 go far beyond consumer safety to ban currently legal and popular products — like those with Delta-8 THC — and impose new THC limits per serving size and per package. This is similar to language lawmakers did not want in last year’s bill, and implementing this year could force many consumers to the black market for the relief these products provide.

For small businesses, these changes will be major, requiring both time and money to implement. And in the midst of skyrocketing inflation, many will be forced to close. The shops that are able to remain open will have to significantly change their inventory and business practices and may encounter issues with their supply chain while hemp farmers navigate new crop and testing requirements on their end.

Ensuring a safe product for responsible adult use is our top priority, which is why we worked diligently to implement all of the new requirements in the 2023 law.

It seems like the real motivation behind these bills is to take a second swing at the THC caps that were removed from last year’s bill and to eliminate a safe, profitable market while protecting one that sells controlled substances.

The Legislature created an effective system last year; they should leave it in place for the benefit of thousands of business owners and the customers they serve.

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Dalton Rowan is general manager of Florida Hemp Distribution, a Tallahassee-based hemp distribution and manufacturing company.

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