How to Grow Your Florida Hemp Business
The prospect of a new and lucrative business opportunity is exciting, and Florida has new opportunities in the industrial hemp market.
Hemp cultivation opens the door for more jobs and business ventures in Florida, but a successful hemp business requires thorough preparation and strategizing to reap proper gains. If you want a piece of the pie in this emerging market, you must understand how to start a hemp business.
Civilizations have used hemp for centuries in many practical ways. Hemp came to North America in the 1600s and has had a complicated legal identity in the United States. With changing laws surrounding hemp production, the industrial hemp market currently has a robust presence in the U.S. economy. Industrial hemp has many wonderful uses you can monetize in a new agribusiness.
Industrial hemp plant uses include:
- Building materials
- Animal bedding
- Beauty products
Hemp-related business has a large market share in the United States. In 2016, the sales value of hemp-based products was over $688 million. With so many uses for industrial hemp, you can carve out many places for your hemp business to thrive.
Is It Legal to Grow Hemp in Florida?
Yes, it is legal to grow hemp in Florida. The United States recently passed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, which authorized hemp production and removed hemp from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s schedule of Controlled substances.
Florida followed the federal lead and authorized hemp cultivation in 2019. A cannabis plant or product is not legal hemp unless it is Cannabis sativa L. and has a total delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration that does not exceed 0.3% on a dry-weight basis.
Growing hemp and selling hemp-based products may be legal, but Florida hemp laws heavily regulate cultivation and sale. You must know the Florida hemp laws and have the proper equipment and capital to legally run a thriving hemp business.
How Do I Get Funding for My Hemp Business?
As with any agricultural business, you need land, seeds, equipment, water, transportation, funds for crop testing, funds for licensing, and probably employees. You must determine if you can afford these business necessities before venturing into the industrial hemp business. If you are not independently wealthy, coming by funding can be hard.
United States banks are hesitant to provide any kind of banking services to hemp-based businesses. If a bank is willing to provide a bank account for a hemp-based business, it might still be hesitant to provide hemp-based loans. Without the financial backing of a bank, you may have to determine what you can sell to build your own capital, or you might have to seek independent investors to help you start your business.
Once you have funding for your business, you must fulfill a number of legal requirements to start your business.
What Are the Legal Requirements for a Hemp Business?
There are many legal requirements to start and run an industrial hemp business. You need to keep up with licensing, permits, and multiple monitoring rules to keep your business viable.
How to Get a Hemp Growing License
One of the most important legal requirements for starting a hemp business is a hemp cultivation license. To qualify for a license, you cannot have a felony conviction that is less than 10 years old and is related to a controlled substance. You must also fulfill many licensing obligations, including:
- Providing fingerprints;
- Clearing a background check;
- Providing legal land description and global positioning coordinates of the farmland; and
- Developing a hemp containment and transportation plan.
Licensing is only the first step to growing hemp in Florida. There are many rules and regulations you must observe after you earn the proper licenses and permits. Your compliance with multiple laws can mean the difference between success and failure in the hemp industry.
What to Do After You Apply for Your License
After you apply for a license, you will likely need to enroll in a Best Management Practices program to establish a presumption of compliance with Florida water quality standards. These practices seek to find balance between improving Florida water quality and maintaining agricultural productivity. Also, any hemp seeds you use must be certified by an agent of the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies or by universities conducting certain hemp pilot projects.
You must stay vigilant after you receive your license. You have to renew your hemp license annually, and you must regularly test the THC level of your crops to avoid growing crops that exceed the 0.3% THC threshold for hemp. Plants that exceed the THC threshold “run hot,” and Florida law requires you to destroy them.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services conducts random annual inspections of hemp licensees. If an inspection finds a violation and you violate a corrective action plan more than two times in five years, you are ineligible to cultivate hemp for five years. There are many ways to easily lose financial ground in the industrial hemp business, so it is crucial that you stay on top of all applicable laws and regulations.
How Do I Protect Myself in the Industrial Hemp Business?
Following all the rules and regulations is the most important measure to protect yourself in the hemp business. There are also other business measures you can employ for protection.
Consider Forming a Limited Liability Company or Corporation
With any business venture comes the possibility of a lawsuit or debt collection. If you do not want a lawsuit based on the actions of your hemp business to affect you personally, forming a limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation for your hemp business can protect you from personal suits or collections. LLCs and corporations have many state filing requirements, but the extra paperwork could save you from personal liability if your business falls on hard times.
Don’t Forget Insurance
It is important to keep up to date on government resources available to shield you from the effects of unforeseeable crop destruction. Farming is unpredictable, and a crop can easily fail in bad weather. Fortunately, the United States has risk management programs for hemp producers. Not all the risk management programs apply to Florida yet, but the programs are new, and you should regularly look for coverage updates on the United States Department of Agriculture website.
Contact an Attorney for Help
The Florida hemp business has many potential pitfalls and many potential rewards. A Florida attorney can be your best asset in developing a flourishing hemp business. Attorney Kara Groves is based in Mount Dora, Florida, and she wants to help you reap the benefits of your entrepreneurship. Kara is knowledgeable and personable, and she enjoys helping agribusinesses succeed.
Call Kara today to receive the support you need in this next phase of your professional life.
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