Backroom Briefing: Foes Try to Torch Hemp Bill

TALLAHASSEE — As Gov. Ron DeSantis fumes about a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow recreational marijuana, the hemp industry is trying to convince him to veto legislation that would restrict sales of euphoria-inducing hemp-derived products that can be purchased at CBD shops and gas stations.

Florida lawmakers passed the bill (SB 1698) in March, with supporters arguing it would address safety concerns as the use of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, has boomed.

The bill would ban the sale of products containing what is known as delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol and limit the amount of delta-9 THC. Delta-8 and delta-9 are cannabinoids in hemp that can get people high.

Hemp farmers and businesses vehemently objected to the bill, saying it would effectively shutter the industry and cost the state thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in lost revenue.

Subscribe to The Florida Jolt Newsletter!

The Florida Healthy Alternatives Association, which represents the hemp industry, enlisted the aid of some of the state’s top lobbyists to try to block the bill.

Two of the association’s key lobbyists — Evan Power and Bill Helmich — have worked for the group since 2022, according to the state lobbyist-registration website, and are leaders of the Republican Party of Florida. Power was elected chairman of the state party in January, and Helmich was appointed the party’s interim executive director in April.

But the Senate unanimously approved the bill, and the House passed it in a 64-48 vote in the last week of this year’s legislative session.

The Legislature hasn’t formally sent the bill to DeSantis, and members of the hemp industry have launched an intense campaign to try to persuade him to veto it.

So far, DeSantis’ office has received a total of 13,755 phone calls, letters and emails urging him to kill the bill, and just 34 in favor of the plan.

Jonathan Solomon, founder of Tampa-based Proleve, was among the hemp-industry business owners and workers who traveled to the Capitol to speak against the bill and encourage lawmakers to regulate hemp products in the same way as medical-marijuana products. Solomon told The News Service of Florida he doesn’t believe the leadership roles of Power and Helmich at the state GOP will affect DeSantis’ handling of the bill.

“I don’t think he’s gonna be swayed,” Solomon said. “It’s whatever he thinks is best for Florida, or unfortunately, whatever he is being told what is best for Florida.”

Join your fellow patriots and subscribe to our YouTube Channel


State Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis’ office quickly pushed back this week after two congressional Democrats requested information about state investment policies that they said might pose a threat to government workers’ retirement savings.

On Monday, U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and U.S. Rep. J. Luis Correa, D-Calif., sought information about the state’s investment policies dealing with environmental, social and governance, or ESG, factors, a hot-button issue for state and national Republicans.

DeSantis in 2023 signed legislation that prohibited state investment strategies that considered ESG factors. The legislation expanded on earlier actions taken by DeSantis and members of the state Cabinet targeting ESG.

Also, Patronis had announced Florida would pull $2 billion from BlackRock, the largest asset-management firm in the world, because of ESG practices.

In a letter to Patronis, Nadler and Correa contended that limiting investors’ use of ESG factors is an injection of “politics into previously objective financial decisions.” They asked for the projected performance of the state’s pension fund since the changes were approved and for a list of companies barred from doing business with the state or local governments.

“A growing body of evidence demonstrates that these policies threaten public employees’ retirement savings and leave taxpayers on the hook for higher fees and increased borrowing costs,” Nadler and Correa wrote.

But Frank Collins, Patronis’ chief of staff, quickly replied that “ESG is a loser.”

“That’s why ESG funds are closing down and ESG hiring has slowed,” Collins said in a release to the media. “When BlackRock was obsessing over ESG, the CFO looked at their returns, saw their performance deteriorating, and divested. Since then, the treasury has experienced a record $2.1 billion in interest.”

Republicans across the country have criticized ESG as an “agenda-driven” effort against investments in such things as fossil-fuel companies and arms manufacturers.


Carol Dover, one of the top lobbyists for the hospitality industry, was advanced Monday by the Florida Council of Tourism leaders to become the next member of the Florida Tourism Hall of Fame.

Dover has been president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association since 1995. The Visit Florida Board of Directors is expected to vote May 30 on Dover’s nomination for the hall of fame. Dover serves on the board and will have to recuse herself.

Dover had the highest score among 16 nominees for the hall of fame.

Past inductees to the hall of fame, which started in 2001, include former Florida First Lady Rhea Chiles, John Ringling, Thomas Edison, Gov. Jeb Bush, Walt Disney and Henry Flagler.

SOCIAL MEDIA POST OF THE WEEK: “I am running to be the next Senate Republican leader.” — U.S. Sen. Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) on Wednesday.

Other stories you may want to read:

Trump Vows to Free U.S. Reporter Jailed in Russia ‘Immediately’ After Election

Larry Elder: Biden’s Black Lies Matter

Share via
Share via
Thank you for sharing! Sign up for emails!
Making our country Great Again and keeping America First takes teamwork.

Subscribe to our newsletter, join our team of Patriots, and read real conservative news you can trust.

Invalid email address
Give it a try, you can unsubscribe anytime.
Send this to a friend