Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently awarded victory to potential pot competitors. DeSantis vetoed legislation that would significantly restrict the sales and production of euphoria-inducing hemp-based products despite vocally opposing a proposed constitutional amendment that would permit recreational marijuana.

Back in March, Florida lawmakers passed SB 1698, which seeks to address safety concerns surrounding the use of tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, which has a booming market in the Sunshine State. SB 1698 would have effectively banned the sale of products containing delta-8 THC, a psychoactive cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant, in addition to limiting the amount of delta-9 THC.

 DeSantis stated that the bill’s “goals are commendable during his veto message.” Still, the legislation “would, in fact, impose debilitating regulatory burdens on small businesses and almost certainly fail to achieve its purposes.”

The Florida Healthy Alternatives Association boldly objected to SB 1698, arguing that the legislation would significantly impact the industry, costing the state thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in lost revenue. The association represents hemp farmers and businesses that sell and manufacture hemp-based products. 

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Florida’s hemp industry has grown substantially in the five years since legislation was passed that legalized hemp to be grown in the state, growth that has prompted The Florida Healthy Alternatives Association to turn to some of the state’s top lobbyists to try and block the measure, while their opponents quickly launched an anti-veto campaign before the bill had even passed by legislatures. Yet, the association came with two strong lobbyists: Evan Power and Bill Helmich, who have worked with the group since 2022, according to the state lobbyist registration website, and are leaders of the Republican Party. 

The association was also one of the biggest spenders on legislative lobbying during the early months of this year, with state lobbyist registration records showing that the group spent an estimated $155,000 on lobbyists from January through March. 

Yet, despite lobbyists’ vocal opposition, the Senate unanimously approved the bill, and the House passed SB 1698 in a 64-48 vote in the final days of this year’s session. 

DeSantis expressed the need for lawmakers to reconsider the issue during the 2025 legislative session, remarking the need “to create a comprehensive regulatory framework for the manufacture and sale” of hemp and hemp-derived products should be addressed. Further, it provided a roadmap for a revised bill that advised lawmakers to focus on quality control, retail sales, labeling, marketing, and packaging. The governor wrote that future legislation should “include random, unannounced inspections, standardized and repeated testing, and dosing packaging, and unit purchase caps that better correspond to the character of the products and their intoxicating capabilities.”

Despite DeSantis’ veto, the Florida governor still questions the need to expand the marijuana market further, expressing his criticism for bills that would allow the state’s currently licensed medical marijuana firms to begin selling recreational pot and the establishment of more dispensaries.