Last week, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried — Florida’s only elected Democrat in the 2018 midterms — took a major step in shaking up her 4,000-employee agency by appointing Holly Bell as the state’s first ever Cannabis Director.
While Fried campaigned on a promise to increase medical marijuana access, both she and the new cannabis director will also have to deal with another rapidly growing Florida industry: hemp, which is marijuana’s friendly, non-psychoactive sibling. Now that hemp has been legalized nationwide with the signing of 2018’s federal farm fill, the state must play catch-up to regulate a market that’s projected to approach $2 billion by 2020.
Hemp can be used to make all kinds of practical products including textiles, food, biofuel, and body care products. But CBD derived from hemp is far and away the most buzz-worthy. It has been popping up at our farmers markets and in our lattes. Despite the craze, 67 percent of Floridians have no idea what the “CBD” in “CBD-infused” stands for, according to a new Mashable survey. And though hemp is now legal under federal law, its cultivation and some of its byproducts, including CBD, remain in a legal grey area.
Short for cannabidiol, CBD is a compound found in cannabis that doesn’t get you high due to its super-low levels of THC (like .3% or less, compared to around 18% THC in your standard fare marijuana). Officially, the FDA has approved the use of CBD for seizures and epilepsy, but proponents hail its applications for everything from relaxation and sleep to pain and anxiety management.
It;s more akin to a dietary supplement than a drug. Pro-athletes are embracing it, and so is the AARP. “Our nine-year-old daughter takes CBD,” says Michael Richmond, co-founder of Green Scientific Labs, a local facility that conducts analytical testing of cannabis products. So why all the hype — and is CBD even legal in the state of Florida? New Times breaks down what you should know.
Is CBD legal in Florida? There is no simple answer here. Although the U.S. Congress legalized hemp products in the 2018 farm bill, Fried recently told WFSU Public Media. “It’s not legal here right now.” However, she added, “We are not going to come in and say you cannot sell CBD in the state of Florida.” A bill filed for the 2019 legislative session proposes a regulatory framework for hemp cultivation and CBD quality control, including mandatory testing and FDA approvals, but it still hasn’t been approved.
So while hemp and its trendy CBD ingredient are currently legal under federal law, it’s still buy and sell at your own risk in Florida—especially because hemp and marijuana look and smell alike, and cops don’t have a simple test to differentiate the two. Nonetheless, reports of police department raids of hemp and CBD dispensaries haven’t deterred Florida’s booming industry, as evidenced by our handy directory of CBD shops in South Florida.
Is CBD right for me? Like medical marijuana, CBD comes in many forms. You can eat it, vape it, squeeze it as a liquid under your tongue or rub it as an oil into your skin. You can swallow it in pill form, add it as a supplement to foods. You can even give it to your pets. In addition to its calming effects, CBD has anti-inflammatory properties that make it ideal for managing arthritis, osteoporosis, and blood pressure, among other things.
CBD is also safe. According to the World Health Organization, there’s no evidence of public health-related risks or abuse potential correlated CBD use. That said, there are limits to CBD’s powers — especially the super-low doses derived from hemp. Discuss it first with your doctor if you have questions or concerns.
What’s the best CBD and where can I find it? If you’re ready to take the plunge and try CBD or just want to find better products, it’s a good idea to do your research. One thing you can look to first is a product’s COA, or Certificate of Analysis. “A lot of brands out there don’t list their results online. To me, that’s a red flag,” says Richmond. At the very least, companies should have their CBD products independently tested for potency to ensure they’re compliant with the law, but brands going above and beyond can test for pesticides, heavy metals, mold, and other harmful contaminants.
“You don’t have to be a scientist to read a COA,” Richmond says. “Look for brands spending the money to make sure consumer safety is at forefront.” As the industry expands and moves toward full transparency, it’s important to educate yourself. Look for referrals, ask friends and family, and do your homework before deciding which CBD products, if any, are right for you.