Citrus greening, a disease that has been slowly spreading throughout Florida since 2004, has been putting the squeeze on Florida’s key agricultural crop (the citrus industry in Florida is worth $10.7 billion).  Citrus greening impairs the citrus trees ability to produce fruit and eventually kills the trees.  Many Florida citrus farmers are turning to other crops to replace their orange juice and citrus fruit business including olives, hops (for beer), pomegranates, and even pongamia (a type of legume).

Another crop that has been proposed for the Florida agriculture industry as a replacement for oranges is hemp.  Hemp can be used in the industrial market for fibers, rope, construction, paper, insulation materials and clothing.

Hemp was a key crop in the early years of America providing rope, clothing and sail material among other materials.  Hemp was a favored crop because it grew quickly with little cultivation and, even today, can be found growing wild in many parts of the mid-west.  President Thomas Jefferson invented the hemp brake which was used to separate fibers from the stalk of the hemp plant.  It has also been reported that Thomas Jefferson said this about hemp:

Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country.

In 1937, the cultivation of hemp was made virtually impossible with the passage of the The Marijuana Tax Act.   And, hemp was banned for good in 1957 mostly because it looked too similar to marijuana despite the fact that it produces little to no THC.

With medical marijuana and recreational marijuana being legalized on the state level across the country, hemp has also slowly started to make a come back.

In 2017, the Florida Legislature took the baby step of passing Florida Statute s. 1004.4473 which has created an industrial hemp pilot program in Florida.  The pilot program permits the two Florida land grant universities — University of Florida and Florida A&M University — to develop public-private partnerships to produce hemp, analyze results and report back to the Legislature.

Dori K. Stibolt is a West Palm Beach, Florida based partner with Fox Rothschild LLP.  She focuses her practice on litigation and labor and employment issues and has taken a special interest in the cannabis business.  You can contact Dori at 561-804-4417 or