Tallahassee will play host to an industrial hemp summit in October, bringing together stakeholders interested in getting in on the growing industry.
Amid the Florida Department of Agriculture’s push to develop its hemp cultivation program, the 850 Hemp Summit is meant to bring together farmers, economic, industry experts and state officials to figure out what growing hemp in North Florida might look like.
A scene from Green Earth Cannacueticals hemp research location in Bartow, Florida. (Photo: Special to the Democrat)
The area is at the point of determining how farmers will bounce back after the devastating loss of timber and crops in Hurricane Michael while diversifying the area’s industrial portfolio.
The idea is to get out in front of the industry’s growth, said Leon County Commissioner Kristin Dozier, who is a member of the Apalachee Regional Planning Council which is a cohost of the summit. The Florida Hemp Association is also a host.
“This whole cannabis industry is very new, lots of moving parts,” Dozier said. “I don’t think we’ve looked at the industrial benefits of hemp as deeply as we have some of the other issues in recent years.”
The 2018 Farm Bill and Florida Legislature both legalized hemp, a product of the cannabis plant that contains minuscule amounts of the psychoactive chemical THC that produces the high in marijuana.
With most of the agricultural lands surrounding the Tallahassee area, Dozier sees the city center as a prime area for a processing and shipping facility to take in hemp grown around the region.
It’s in those rural areas where people may be looking to switch from their traditional crops that hemp may be the answer.
“We’re looking at whether there is opportunity to clear debris and plant a different crop,” Dozier said, noting that bringing hemp into the fold could be a positive change. “Many people are talking about rebuilding. We’re focused on building an economy. I think it’s disruptive in a positive way and could be a huge benefit for our region.”
Hemp can be used to create more than 25,000 products, from plastic replacements, construction and fiber materials and fertilizer but is most commonly associated with CBD, a non-euphoric cannabis chemical used as a medicine.
The two-day summit will feature updates on the state of Florida’s hemp industry by DACS Director of the Office of Cannabis Holly Bell, panel discussions on hemp research and cultivation, understanding the marketing, business and legal regulations associated with hemp.
Christina Paredes, the director of the Tallahassee-Leon County Office of Economic Vitality, said the hemp summit falls right in line with the targeted industries in the area.
With Florida A&M University securing a hemp research grant to assist in establishing a commercial program for the state, Tallahassee is in a unique position.
“We are focused on manufacturing and strong research centers,” Paredes said. “We know that there are many different uses for hemp beyond the CBD oil. It’s a very versatile fabric. We’re looking at how to diversify the economy across the region as a result of Hurricane Michael.”
APRC’s Disaster Resilience Coordinator Ben Chandler said the interest in growing, manufacturing and processing hemp is important all across the nine counties the group serves.
“Something that supports our region as a whole is economic diversification,” Chandler said. “It’s important to Tallahassee as we grow across the region, but we can’t just have growth in the urban are it needs to occur in our rural areas too.”
Contact Karl Etters at firstname.lastname@example.org or @KarlEtters on Twitter
Details on the 850 Hemp Summit
When: Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019
Where: Florida State Conference Center, 555 W. Pensacola St. .
Registration Hours: 7:30 – 9:30 a.m. Oct. 2
Registration Fees: Attendees $25
Details: For more information go to www.tmcshows.com/850hempsummit/
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