Desantis Vetoes Bill Banning Sale of Intoxicating Hemp Derivatives in Florida

Desantis Vetoes Bill Banning Sale of Intoxicating Hemp Derivatives in Florida

Amid rumors that the Florida chief executive is using his veto power to motivate hemp interests to help fund opposition to a cannabis legalization ballot initiative, Governor Desantis (R) is taking a massive political risk less than six months before Election Day.

Making good on his promise to block a controversial measure aimed at imposing a ban on intoxicating hemp derivatives (IHDs), Florida Governor Ron Desantis (R) has used his veto power to kill the polarizing anti-hemp legislation effectively.

 

In a daring political chess match maneuver, Desantis vetoed Senate Bill 1698 this past Friday after showing support for the measure earlier. Last week, rumblings began to leak from the governor's office that the Florida chief executive planned to veto the IHD ban in an apparent attempt to motivate hemp industry interests to help finance a campaign opposing a marijuana legalization initiative set to appear on the upcoming November ballot.

 

Officials close to the governor, who spoke anonymously to CBS News, said Desantis hoped to leverage hemp stakeholders' economic interests in the IHD market to convince Floridians to vote against the cannabis reform.

 

The move comes as a massive and unexpected shock to the Big Cannabis lobby in Florida. According to one unnamed source, "The marijuana people are furious, and they are scrambling."

 
"The marijuana people are furious, and they are scrambling."

- Anonymous Source Close to Florida Governor Ron Desantis (R)

 

Much of their confusion and dismay stems from the paradoxical logic behind the governor's head-scratching and risky move. In the past, Desantis has raised loud concerns regarding access to high-potency THC products as a primary reason for his opposition to cannabis legalization. Yet, now he seems more than willing to veto a bill that would essentially eliminate an existing, mostly unregulated market sector for IHD products.

 

While not explicitly mentioning the cannabis legalization ballot measure in his veto message, the governor said, "While Senate Bill 1698's goals are commendable, the bill would, in fact, impose debilitating regulatory burdens on small businesses and almost certainly fail to achieve its purposes."

 
"While Senate Bill 1698's goals are commendable, the bill would, in fact, impose debilitating regulatory burdens on small businesses and almost certainly fail to achieve its purposes."

- Florida Governor Ron Desantis (R)

 

The governor went on to say, "Senate Bill 1698 would introduce dramatic disruption and harm to many small retail and manufacturing businesses in Florida—businesses that have emerged due to recent legislation paving the way for the commercial use of hemp."

 
"Senate Bill 1698 would introduce dramatic disruption and harm to many small retail and manufacturing businesses in Florida—businesses that have emerged due to recent legislation paving the way for the commercial use of hemp."

- Florida Governor Ron Desantis (R)

 

Despite his dubious motivations for nixing the bill, he did provide the state lawmakers with a series of recommendations to consider when developing future legislation concerning hemp and its intoxicating derivative compounds, like the notorious delta-8 THC.

 

Some of those recommendations include:

 
  • Establishing standards for the cultivation, processing, and handling of hemp products to ensure their purity, potency, and safety.

  • Developing guidelines for accurate labeling, including cannabinoid content, sourcing information, health claims, and dosing instructions.

  • The creation of child-resistant packaging and the prohibition of advertising aimed at attracting underage minors. 

  • Requiring IHD products to be sold behind the counter and hemp retail shops to be located outside sufficient proximities from "schools, religious institutions, and other areas where children and families regularly gather."

 

The irony behind Desantis' veto of the IHD ban is that while he is making a compelling argument for the creation of much tighter regulations for the IHD product market, he is simultaneously urging Florida voters to reject a ballot initiative that would enact similar rules and guidelines for recreational cannabis.

 

Using the well-worn axiom that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," Gov. Desantis is taking a massive gamble that his act of support for the battered and bruised hemp industry will translate into funds to help him combat the cannabis legalization measure. However, the strategy could backfire if the hemp industry doesn't take Desantis' cue and help fund his opposition campaign. 

 

His head-scratching actions also come on the heels of the latest Fox News Poll showing that two in three Florida voters, including a majority of Republicans, support the legalization initiative. The multi-question survey found that while 66% of voters approve of the marijuana ballot measure (60% is the threshold for passing the proposed constitutional amendment), only 52% say they strongly or somewhat approve of the job Desantis is doing as governor.

 

So, even if the hemp interests in the state do open up their donation coffers to help Desantis in his crusade against adult-use cannabis, it may not be enough to defeat the increasingly popular ballot initiative. If Desantis is unsuccessful in his quest, he could end up with the worst of both political worlds, with IHDs and recreational cannabis both legal when the ballots close in November. The summer is about to get even hotter in the Sunshine State.