TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) — Federal officials have approved Florida’s plan for a hemp program, clearing the way for the state to accept applications from farmers to grow industrial hemp.

State Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, whose department is overseeing the hemp program, issued a statement saying “We are thrilled that Florida’s hemp industry officially begins now.”

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The state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will begin accepting applications to grow hemp on April 27.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved Florida’s plan Thursday.

A 2018 federal farm bill legalized hemp as an agricultural product after decades of debate about the issue.

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Industrial hemp can be used in numerous products and is different from euphoria-causing marijuana, which remains illegal under federal law.

Florida lawmakers in 2019 passed a bill to take advantage of the federal farm law, creating a program to regulate cultivation of hemp. The state plan then needed federal approval.

“By working closely with our farmers, processors, retailers, and consumers, Florida’s state hemp program will become a model for the nation, will set a gold standard for this emerging industry and will create billions in economic opportunity for Florida,” Fried said in a prepared statement. “As our economy deals with the impacts of COVID-19, this approval will give our agriculture industry a new alternative crop for many years to come.”

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