PANAMA CITY, Fla (WMBB)– Earlier this month, state officials legalized hemp farming here in Florida. Supporters say it will become a major cash crop, even going so far as to say it could save many small farmers. Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nicki Fried says she plans to turn Florida into the gold standard for the hemp industry.
Hemp is a form of cannabis contains significantly lower levels of THC than marijuana. It has 25 to 35,000 different uses in agriculture, medicine, and manufacturing. Some say it’s going to be one of the industrial staples of the future.
“That’s going to be something that’s gonna replace our plastics, our Styrofoam, all of our paper, it’s such a great product and it’s all biodegradable,” said Nicki Fried, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture.
Fried made hemp a huge priority when she campaigned for office. She says the plant can be a huge economic driver.
“Creating a new alternative crop here in our state could be a 20 to 30 billion dollar industry within the next five to ten years,” said Fried.
Florida has an ideal environment for the crop. The state also has many people ready to pioneer the industry.
“We have the growing conditions and we also have the agricultural community. From what we saw in all of the workshops across the state, half the people, if not more of the people that were participating in the workshops were members of our agricultural community,” said Fried.
But to maximize hemp’s potential, Fried believes lawmakers and consumers must work together.
“We want to hear from the people. We want to have input because if we are going to make an impact and really be a revolution in a new green economy, we need the partnerships of our citizens to be sitting next to us,” said Fried.
Legalizing hemp also ensures consumers have access to safe products that perform as promised.