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UF/IFAS Industrial Hemp Pilot Project

UF/IFAS Industrial Hemp Pilot Project

Note: These answers are current as of 26 November 2019

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The legal and regulatory framework for hemp is undergoing a nationwide transformation, and it may seem that there are more questions than clear answers. The following list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) attempts to provide the most accurate answers currently available from the UF/IFAS Industrial Hemp Pilot Project.

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Hemp in Florida

General Hemp Questions

UF/IFAS Industrial Hemp Program

Other Important Clarifications


Hemp in Florida

Is Hemp Legal to Grow on Private Farms in Florida?

No. Currently, industrial hemp planting permits are only available to the state's two land-grant universities: the University of Florida (UF) and Florida A&M University (FAMU). UF has obtained industrial hemp permits from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) to proceed with import of hemp materials, cultivation, and research. Hemp permitting for private farmers is being established by FDACS.

Is CBD Legal in Florida?

potted industrial hemp plant

Close-up view of the leaves of potted industrial hemp plants in a greenhouse | UF/IFAS photo

CBD products began being regulated in the state by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) on July 1, 2019, and are required to meet strict guidelines for content as per state law. However, enforcement of these laws is yet to be fully executed. Therefore, consumers should be cautious when considering the purchase of hemp products containing CBD. More information about CBD can be found on the FDACS website.

When Can Private Citizens or Businesses Grow Hemp in Florida?

recent statement by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) declares their "intention to issue regulations in the Fall of 2019 to accommodate the 2020 planting season." Progress by the USDA can be followed on their website. These actions are in response to the 2018 Farm Bill that directs the USDA to establish a process to regulate hemp at the state level through each state’s Department of Agriculture. The state of Florida and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) will have to update the rules and regulations to allow private production of hemp or adopt the federal regulations. FDACS progress can be followed on their website. As it stands, the UF/IFAS hemp program will operate under the laws and regulations defined by the 2014 Farm Bill process.

How Do I Get a Hemp Permit?

Currently, private farms and businesses cannot get a hemp permit in Florida. The permitting process is being established by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) in their draft hemp plant to be submitted to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for a 2019 review. The University of Florida hemp program is not accepting applications to permit private farms.

General Hemp Questions

How is Hemp Different from Marijuana?

Hemp and marijuana are the same plant species: Cannabis sativa. They are legally distinguished based on their delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content. THC and the precursor THCa are the psychoactive compounds associated with ‘getting high.’

Hemp is Cannabis sativa with a THC content that does not exceed 0.3 percent by dry weight, while marijuana is Cannabis sativa with a total THC (THC + THCa) content greater than 0.3 percent by dry weight, while marijuana is Cannabis sativa with a total THC content greater than 0.3 percent. The 0.3 percent total THC threshold is defined by state and federal laws.

Hemp is used for seed, fiber, oil, construction materials, and non-THC cannabinoids. Some hemp varieties can be high in CBD and other cannabinoids. Hemp and marijuana may also be called Cannabis indica or Cannabis ruderalis, which are biologically-synonymous terms for Cannabis sativa. More accurately, indica and ruderalis denote subspecies.

What is CBD?

CBD is the abbreviation for cannabidiol. CBD is a one of many cannabinoid compounds found in Cannabis plants. Some hemp and marijuana have a high concentration of CBD. CBD has growing evidence of medical use

What Did the 2018 Farm Bill Change for Hemp?

Although many news articles reacting to the Farm Bill proclaim: “Hemp is Now Legal,” the bill does not say everyone is free to start growing/selling/possessing hemp.

Instead, hemp is still going to be regulated. Until the USDA responds to the 2018 Farm Bill, each state will operate under the laws and regulations put in place by the 2014 Farm Bill process. Industrial hemp planting permits as per the 2014 Farm Bill are still limited to the University of Florida and Florida A&M University.

The 2018 Farm Bill defines hemp as an agricultural commodity. It also re-classifies hemp with regard to the Controlled Substances Act administered by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This offers hemp farmers access to financing and crop insurance, and removes trade barriers across state lines. The 2018 Farm Bill also describes regulation of hemp production at the state level. The Department of Agriculture for any state interested in growing hemp may submit their plan to the USDA or obtain approval from the state legislature. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) is drafting a state hemp plan in response to the 2018 Farm Bill.

UF/IFAS Industrial Hemp Pilot Program

Can Private Land Owners Donate Land for the UF/IFAS Hemp Trials?

No. Currently, all University of Florida hemp research will be conducted on UF property. UF/IFAS has chosen several research stations in diverse locations across the state. The University will be restricting trials to its own property for the foreseeable future.

Does UF/IFAS Profit from Growing Hemp?

close of view of an industrial hemp plant in the field

Detailed view of industrial hemp growing in the field at a UF/IFAS research location | UF/IFAS photo

No. Currently, all research materials must be destroyed after UF/IFAS trials. The University of Florida may partner with industry groups for quality testing and product development, however these products will also be destroyed.

Why is UF/IFAS Researching Industrial Hemp?

The UF/IFAS Industrial Hemp Pilot Project is working to identify varieties and planting recommendations that can be profitable for growers and environmentally responsible. Florida's climate and markets are very different from other places growing and selling hemp. Most hemp seed and plant materials on the market are adapted to those places, so UF/IFAS has to start with variety trials to find marketable hemp that grows well in Florida’s diverse soils, climates, and latitudes. 

Economic research is being conducted to find the input costs of growing hemp, expectations of hemp’s market value, and a breakeven point to recommend when hemp is an ideal crop. Additionally, UF/IFAS is conducting a study for risk of invasiveness. The UF/IFAS research plan is further described throughout the site. The pilot project planted its first seeds May 2019.

Will the Invasive Risk Study Stall Production?

Invasions of non-native plant species are a significant ecological and economic problem in Florida. Invasive plants affect biodiversity and ecosystem function. Each year, the state spends millions on invasive plant management.

To reduce the threat of non-native plant invasions, the UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas conducts risk assessment of non-native plant species new to the state of Florida, or proposed for new uses. Data for the risk assessments come from published information related to the biology and ecology of individual species.

Hemp scores in the 'high invasion risk' category because of what’s known about its ability in other states and countries to escape and colonize natural areas outside of cultivation. 

It is the role of the Industrial Hemp Pilot Project to better understand how hemp grows in the unique climate of Florida with limited and strictly monitored plantings. We do not intend for this process to be a hold up to the industry, but invasion risk is a serious concern that must be addressed. This study is our due diligence given the hugely impactful problem of plant invasions in the state. Our work will further assess the potential invasion of hemp into natural areas and inform best management practices for hemp plantings and seed transportation to reduce invasion risk.

Will Research Be Expanded with Additional Funding?

UF/IFAS is interested in hemp for plant extracts, propagation, indoors grow, and other areas of research outside the scope of our current budget in support of the Florida hemp industry. UF/IFAS is actively looking for project sponsors to provide funds and direction for our project development.

How Many Acres Will Be Grown in the First Year?

Not many. The research plots will not be measured in acres – they will be much smaller. Hemp planting will be evaluated in replicated small scale plots. From the small plots, UF/IFAS will be able to extrapolate expected yields.

Other Important Clarifications

Will There Be Insects or Diseases in the Hemp?

potted industrial hemp plant

Close-up view to show detail of the leaves of industrial hemp plants grown in a greenhouse | UF/IFAS video still

Definitely. UF/IFAS didn't spray trials with any type of chemical controls. Researchers saw many pests and diseases during the 2019 planting season. Over the trial seasons, UF/IFAS will continue to assess hemp stands for health, including for insect pests and diseases. Future studies may include control trials for issues found in the first field season. 

Is this the Same Hemp Grown Before World War Two?

The hemp market up to the 1940s was oriented around an exceptional demand for fiber to supply the United States and allies with cordage and durable canvases. Information about varieties grown then for fiber in that economy are not readily transferrable to the contemporary market for oil, seed, cannabinoids, and specialty fiber today. 

From those historical records, we only have evidence of a single research program for cultivation of hemp in Florida during that time. In fact, a bulletin of that research program in the Everglades region suggests that no hemp had ever been cultivated in Florida for commercial purposes. We have yet to find a reference to commercial or production scale planting of hemp in Florida.

How is it Legal to Grow Sunn Hemp Without a Permit?

Sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea) is not actually hemp or even related unrelated to Cannabis. This cover crop was used in India as a source for fiber, so it has 'hemp' in its common name. It is in the legume family with alfalfa. Sunn hemp has no cannabinoids. 

Definitions of Common Hemp Terminology

When a plant flowers as it reaches a certain size or age instead of being daylength sensitive - also, day neutral or daylight independent. Some hemp are autoflowering.

The long, high-quality fiber that run lengthwise on the exterior of a hemp stem

industrial hemp plants in greenhouse

Industrial hemp plants grown in a controlled greenhouse environment | UF/IFAS video still

A class of more than 100 naturally-occurring secondary metabolites found in Cannabis (and some other plants) synthesized from the same Olivetolic acid and GPP. Some cannabinoids, such as THC, are associated with psychotropic and medicinal effects.

Botanically, Cannabis is a genus. Although there are multiple distinct genetic backgrounds of Cannabis (sativaindicaruderalis, and similar), most botanists classify those backgrounds into the same species: Cannabis sativa L. Conversationally, 'cannabis' is an accurate common name for marijuana and hemp, just as corn (Zea mays) refers to sweetcorn, popcorn, and field corn.

Cannabidiol is a cannabinoid that has some medical purposes. Some hemp and marijuana have a high concentration of CBD.

The process of stripping bast fiber from stems

When individuals in a plant population are strictly male or female, that is each plant has only pollen producing flowers or seed producing flowers. Most populations of cannabis are dioecious.

Hemp seed oil 
The vegetable oil extracted from the seeds of a hemp plant. This is distinguished from hemp essential oil (or CBD) oil that is extracted from flowers.

Having both male and female reproductive organs in the same flower. Hermaphrodite flowers can produce both pollen and seed. Most plant species have only hermaphrodite flowers. Hermaphrodite flowers occasionally can be found on otherwise female cannabis.

industrial hemp plants in greenhouse

Industrial hemp plants grown in a controlled greenhouse environment | UF/IFAS video still

The woody, central pith section of hemp stem used in Hempcrete, animal bedding, and other alternatives to wood pulp

Cannabis indica or Cannabis sativa var. indica refers to a genetic background of cannabis that had been crossed into marijuana.

When individual plants have separate male and female unisexual flowers in the same plant. These plants still have unisexual flowers, but of both sexes separately in the same individual plant. For example, corn tassels are male and corn ears are female. Some hemp varieties are monoecious.

The hours of sunlight in a day required for the plant to grow in leafy, vegetative phase (not flowering). After seasonal day-lengths change from the required photoperiod, the plants will flower. Plants have photoperiodic flowering to stop them from flowering before they are ready. Most hemp varieties require more than 14 hours of light per day. They then flower after summer when the days get shorter.

Cannabis ruderalis or Cannabis sativa var. ruderalis refers to a low THC genetic background of cannabis that is attributed to autoflowering and dwarfing. 

Cannabis sativa or Cannabis sativa var. sativa refers to a genetic background of cannabis that is most associated with hemp and marijuana.

Tetrahydrocannabinol is a cannabinoid most associated with the psychotropic 'high' effect of marijuana.