Hemp is emerging as a potential financial powerhouse for the agricultural industry and the ramifications for Florida and within the legal community could be significant.
That’s why the Lee County Bar Association is presenting a very special open-to-the-public luncheon on “Hemp: The legal and economic ramifications.” The event is from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21 at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center in Fort Myers.
Holly Bell, the Director of Cannabis for Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, will lead a panel of experts discussing the economic, agricultural, retail and health impacts of hemp. Also on the panel are:
Cole Peacock: He was appointed to the first Florida Hemp Advisory Committee by Nikki Fried, Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services. He also is co-founder of Seed and Bean Market, which sells the hemp product CBD.
Chris Marrie: He is principal in the Naples office of HBK CPAs & Consultants. He also is director of the firm’s Cannabis Industry Group in the southern tier of the firm’s service region.
Scheril Murray Powell, Esq.: She is president of the cannabis consulting firm Green Sustainable Strong, LLC and managing partner at Scheril Murray Powell, P.A.
Michelle Suarez, Esq.: She Is CEO and managing attorney for Florida Entrepreneur Law, P.A. in Fort Lauderdale.
The sponsor for the luncheon is Michael F. Hornung, who established the Law Office of Michael F. Hornung, P.A. in 1996.
How hemp is grown, sold and regulated and how attorneys, judges and other stakeholders come to grips with it puts the product in the hot-button category as 2020 rolls into a crucial election year.
“You are going to see a lot of people try to be an early entrant into the market,” LCBA President Matt Roepstorff said. “You will see a lot of hemp CBD sales at specialty shops, holistic shops, gas stations, general retailers.”
Hemp could prove to be a valuable crop for Florida farmers, struggling from losses of their citrus crop due to greening and canker and tomato crop losses because of the hot market for the vegetable in Mexico. Hemp provides an economic solution that could be worth billions. The plant is known to grow well in the Florida panhandle, but seed testing continues in southwest and south Florida to determine how well it will grow in this region.
Hemp has thousands of uses, but the money is in CBD, which stands for Cannabidiol and is a compound extracted from the hemp plant. CBD is known to promote health and is showing up more frequently in a variety of retail stores. Hemp is often confused with the marijuana plant and THC.
Testing and regulatory monitoring will be essential as the demand for the product grows. State reports indicate there could be as many as 8,000 applicants for state-approved cultivation permits, with about 3,000 farm operations qualifying.
“We haven’t seen this type of excitement in agriculture in decades,” Fried said in an interview. “Hemp is going to be a tremendous marketplace for Florida – $20 billion to $30 billion.”
Among hemp’s other uses are in personal care products, for industrial use in making rope, as well as textiles and supplements. In 2017, retail sales of hemp were estimated at $820 million, with 23 percent of those sales in CBD products.
But understanding the guidelines of this emerging industry will be critical, Peacock said. “We have to have a clear understanding of what we can and can’t do with the guidelines set forth by the feds,” he added.
The cost of the luncheon is $25 to the public and free for members of the Lee County Bar Association. Reservations are required and space is limited. To register and buy tickets, go to leebar.org. For more information about the luncheon or to become a sponsor, contact Lee County Bar Association executive director Lauren Baugh at 239-334-0047.