New bills classifying hemp extract as food could put SWFL shops out of business

Reporter: Amy Galo Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

In 2018, a federal farm bill allowed the sale of cannabis products to induce a marijuana-like high, even in states that haven’t legalized marijuana, like Florida.

A new set of bills would strict limits on the amount that could be sold. The bill would classify hemp extract as food and lower the serving size considerably. WINK News visited Hemp Joi, a local CBD store, to ask what the bill could mean for them. They fear the change in the law could put them out of business.

John Halbert couldn’t sleep after surviving two brain tumors and blamed tinnitus.

“I took Xanax, Valium, Ambien,” Halbert said. “I had about a two-year span where I would not sleep for two nights, and I would crash, and it about killed me.”

Halbert said everything changed when he tried hemp.

“I felt refreshed and ready to go,” Halbert said.

Halbert began working with Hemp Joi. They sell hemp-derived products like Delta-8 and not marijuana, an important distinction.

“The hemp plant has considerably more CBD, which is excellent for inflammation, anxiety, and all kinds of wonderful things that we still don’t even know all of what they do. The marijuana plant is much higher in THC and much lower and CBD,” Steve Katz, the owner of Hemp Joi, said.

But Katz fears a bill making its way through the Florida legislature could put him out of business.

“We will probably have 7,000 businesses go out of business,” Katz said.

The bill would classify hemp extract as food, limiting the dosage to 0.5 milligrams per serving or 2 milligrams per package. Hemp Joi’s Delta-8 gummies are 25 milligrams.

“You won’t even feel it,” Katz said. “Two milligrams. You would be taking ten gummies!”

“I can’t comment specifically on the Florida bills. But what I can say is that adding cannabinoids, whether it’s CBD or THC to food is not a good idea. They are drugs licensed by the FDA in both cases, actually for specific functions, and they have side effects and adverse effects,” Dr. Silver said.

The bill also calls for restrictions on packaging.

“We get products sent to us all the time that look like something that a kid would gravitate to; we do not carry products like that,” Halbert said.

After visiting Hemp Joi, WINK News spoke with Dr. Lynn Silver of the Public Health Institute, who is concerned about the bill. She thinks hemp-derived products like Delta-8 should come off the shelves entirely and not be treated as food.

“THC, whether it comes from a hemp plant or a cannabis plant, is the same THC, and if there’s 5 milligrams in a gummy, it’s going to get you high, and you’re basically legalizing intoxicating cannabis,” Silver said. “If you legalize that, people should be very clear on that. It’s not food. It shouldn’t be treated as food.”

The bill keeps the legal age for purchase at 21. Both Halbert and Katz agree on that. They say they’re all for sensible regulation.

“Let’s hope common sense rules, and we get a product, and we get regulated. Bring on the regulators,” Katz said.

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