Hemp Cultivation Checklist for Florida Growers

Young hemp plant up close

USDA recently approved Florida’s hemp program, making it legal to cultivate in the state. So now what?

Earlier this week, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) launched the Hemp Cultivation Portal, which allows prospective growers to submit applications online for permits to grow industrial hemp in the state. The site represents the culmination of months of work by the agency in rulemaking and seeking USDA approvals.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried was excited to announce the launch. Hemp has been a major initiative of her first term in office.

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“As we continue building our state hemp program into a national leader, our new online application portal will help growers quickly and easily apply for hemp cultivation licenses, as well as manage, renew, and view any current hemp applications,” she notes.

According to Holly Bell, FDACS Director of Cannabis, there are steps you need to take before coming online to seek a permit. She added that the disruptions of coronavirus should not impede the process for you to obtain your license.

“We have all been working remotely [in response to COVID-19] and meeting all of our target dates,” she notes. “The launch of the portal was the last piece of the program prior to permitting.”

Bell says the following checklist can help you prepare before seeking a permit:

  • Know the rules. Licensed cultivators have certain ongoing responsibilities, like reporting crop harvests, maintaining environmental containment, and submitting samples for THC testing. Know the rules and make sure you will be able to comply with them once you get your license.
  • Put together a plan. It’s never too early to start thinking about where you’ll get your seeds or cultivars, who you will sell your crop to, and what kind of operation you want to have. For example, are you going to grow hemp for oil, fiber, or hemp nursery plants? If you’re interested in selling hemp nursery plants, you will need to register as a nursery, as well. You can do this by contacting the Division of Plant Industry at 888-397-1517.
  • Submit fingerprints. As part of the hemp cultivation permitting process, applicants are required to complete a background check, which includes fingerprint submission. Submit a full set of fingerprints to a Livescan service provider evaluated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for the Responsible person and any Control person(s). Find a local Livescan service at flhealthsource.gov/bgs-providers.
  • Create an account. You can submit your Hemp Cultivation Application through FDACS.gov/hemp. A valid email address will be required to validate your user profile.
  • Prepare an environmental containment plan. As part of the application process, you will need to submit an environmental containment plan for each cultivation location. For your convenience, a sample environmental containment plan has been prepared and can be found at FDACS.gov/hemp.
  • Submit your application. Make sure the application is complete and that all the information included is accurate and correct to avoid processing delays. Applicants may obtain property classification and property tax parcel number information from the Florida Department of Revenue website.
  • Save your confirmation email. Once you have successfully submitted your application, you will receive a confirmation email from DPI.
  • Look for communications from FDACS. Once you submit, the agency will start reviewing the application. If it is complete and no further information is needed, you will receive an email with your license to cultivate hemp. You will be notified if any additional information is needed or if there are any issues with the application.
  • Save your application. Throughout the cultivation process, you may need to present your license or license number to seed dealers, nurseries, and government officials.
  • Know the rules. You’re a licensed hemp grower in the state of Florida. With that license comes certain ongoing responsibilities, like posting signage, reporting your anticipated harvest dates, and submitting samples for THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) testing. Make sure you know and continue to comply with those requirements.

A Special Note About Hemp Seed

According to the Hemp Industries Association of Florida, new growers should be aware of rules regulating seed. By law, you can only cultivate hemp seed that’s pilot program approved or AOSCA certified. This limits the amount of available seed for use in the state, especially for those interested in growing high-CBD (cannabidiol) crops.

You need to be very careful about the source of your seeds to make sure you are growing pilot program-approved or AOSCA-certified seed. If you don’t, you risk losing your entire crop to the regulators — or worse — buying bad seed and never seeing any growth at all.

To learn more, visit the association’s website at HIAFL.org.

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