The governor has received thousands of emails, phone calls and letters from people opposed to the bill. Fewer than 100 have reached out to his office in favor.

TALLAHASSEE — Thousands of Floridians have called and written Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office to urge him to veto a bill that they say would effectively neuter the state’s hemp market and make it harder for consumers to access products they need for their mental and physical health.

DeSantis’ office, which has not formally received the bill from the Legislature, declined to comment on the governor’s stance. But some opponents of the legislation say they’re hopeful their efforts will work.

Paige Figi, the executive director of Coalition for Access Now, said while she knows the governor isn’t a cannabis supporter, she believes he does support CBD health products and the people, including veterans and first responders, who use them.

“I feel like he will have the compassion for these people,” she said.

The bill, if it becomes law, would ban delta-8 hemp products like gummies and vapes, which can have a psychoactive effect. It would also ban some other cannabinoids, including delta-10, THC-V and THC-P, and would limit the strength of permitted hemp products.

Consumers like Figi have warned that the bill, SB 1698, would ban some products, including some CBD extracts, that don’t create a “high” sensation and are marketed for a range of uses, including joint and muscle pain, insomnia and anxiety.

Figi used CBD to ease her daughter Charlotte’s epilepsy. The CBD product Charlotte’s Web was named after her, and her case opened up a national conversation about possible cannabis benefits.

The governor’s office has logged more than 13,000 phone calls, letters and emails from groups and individuals pushing for a veto. Fewer than 100 people have reached out in support of the legislation, according to numbers provided by the governor’s office.

In her own letter to the governor’s office, Figi talked about how CBD allowed her to finally meet her daughter as a healthy young girl, instead of as one suffering through hundreds of seizures per month.

“As a father of two daughters, I know that you can appreciate what that meant to our family,” she wrote.

Rep. Tommy Gregory, R-Lakewood Ranch, who sponsored the bill in the House, said hemp products being sold in Florida are drugs, and lawmakers had been “duped” into allowing a hemp market beyond what they anticipated.

“I don’t think we should have recreational drug use, drug sales, in the state of Florida or in this country,” Gregory said during debate over the bill.

Florida senators passed the bill unanimously, but Florida’s House members were more divided in a 64-48 vote, with 14 Republicans voting against it.

Some opponents of the legislation want to keep Florida’s delta-8 market in place with reasonable regulations. Others, like Figi, take issue with how the bill could affect CBD, but would be open to legislation that restricts delta-8 or other psychoactive hemp products.

Figi said producers of intoxicating products took advantage of a loophole in the law allowing CBD, and said as a result, people who use CBD for health reasons are being hurt.

In one letter sent to DeSantis, parents Tracy and Guy Berg wrote about using hemp oil to help with their daughter Riley’s epilepsy.

Tracy Berg wrote that when she watched the vote and debate surrounding it, she was “disgusted by the ignorance that I heard from my fellow Republicans.”

“They basically referred to my child as a drug addict,” she said in her letter. “Suggesting we should get her off drugs. They really didn’t understand what they were voting on. They voted to take away my access to a natural product that saved my baby’s life.”

Jodi James, the president of Florida Cannabis Action Network, said if DeSantis doesn’t veto the hemp bill, small businesses will be most affected. If those small shops have tight rules on what they can and can’t sell, but the state’s medical marijuana licensees can sell similar products, it’ll be the bigger companies that survive, James said.

A proposed amendment on November’s ballot would allow recreational marijuana use in the state, and if it passes, the same companies that have medical licenses could sell products to recreational buyers.

“Are you going to have the neighborhood hardware store or are we all going to go to Home Depots and Lowe’s?” James said.

JJ Coombs, who operates three hemp businesses in Fort Lauderdale, said he thinks DeSantis supports small businesses and will do ”whatever he thinks is right.”

Coombs employs about 160 people through his business, many of whom sent handwritten letters to DeSantis. A report commissioned by a hemp trade group says that more than 100,000 people are employed in Florida’s hemp industry.

“You look at the people and the letters sent to his office, you’re not getting those letters from the 20 marijuana businesses in the state,” Coombs said.

 

Source: tampabay.com, Romy Ellenbogen

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