Hemp, CBD regulations to be revisited

ANNA MARIA – The mayor and city commission plan to review and potentially amend a city ordinance that prohibits the sale of hemp and CBD products.

Hemp is a cannabis plant that contains 0.3% or less THC, the psychoactive ingredi­ent in marijuana that produces a “high.” CBD is a cannabis product that contains legally-allowed low levels of THC.

Enacted in 2015, Section 34-2 of Anna Ma­ria’s code of ordinances says, “The growing, processing, distributing and sale of marijuana within the city limits of Anna Maria is hereby prohibited. Marijuana shall be defined for purposes of this section to include all parts of any plant of the genus cannabis, whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of the plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture or preparation of the plant or its seeds or resin, including but not limited to low-THC cannabis.”

At Mayor Dan Murphy’s suggestion, Anna Maria’s current hemp and CBD prohibitions are tentatively scheduled for discussion during the Thursday, March 14 city commission meeting that will start at 2 p.m.

Anna Maria’s hemp and CBD sales prohibitions came into question during the Feb. 8 commission meet­ing, when Blue Ribbon Events owner Danielle Lynch and Holmes Beach-based Edibles N More owner Mel Wendel were informed that Wendel could not sell hemp and CBD products at the arts and crafts show taking place at Roser Church that weekend. Wendel noted CBD sales are allowed in Holmes Beach because that city amended its hemp and CBD prohibi­tions in accordance with the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp and differentiated it from marijuana.

When addressing the commission, Wendel said she purchases and resells CBD products produced and sold by Beach Bum Apothecary in Anna Maria (no relation to Beach Bums on Pine Avenue). She also said the Cool Beans AMI coffee shop was selling CBD products.

In response, Murphy said he wasn’t aware of any Anna Maria businesses selling hemp or CBD products.

VIOLATION NOTICES

Although not named by Wendel, North Shore Café owners Nathan Scott Geller and Colleen Geller now find themselves involved in the hemp and CBD regulation discussion.

On Feb. 13, the Gellers received a notice of violation letter from Code Enforcement Manager David DeZutter.

The notice includes the city code language pertaining to hemp and CBD sales and says, “This is to inform you that it was brought to our attention that your location may be selling CBD products which are made from hemp. If the allegation is correct, please remove all CBD products. Your imme­diate attention is required to bring your property into compliance by Feb. 23.

That day, Cool Beans AMI owner Morgan Bryant received a similar notice.

When contacted by The Sun, Beach Bum Apothecary owner Jim Harwood said he did not receive a notice of vio­lation. He said he previously utilized a commercial kitchen facility in Anna Maria to produce CBD products but he no longer uses that facility.

“The (Florida) Department of Agriculture granted me a permit to use at the kitchen. Right now, the business is not operating and I do not and have not sold items in the city of Anna Maria. My billing and shipping addresses are located in Bradenton,” Harwood said.

BUSINESS OWNER RESPONDS

The Gellers attended the Feb. 22 city commission meeting and Nathan addressed the commission during general public comment.

Regarding the notice of violation, Geller said, “I can assure you we’re not doing any of those things. As a resident and business owner, we support the intent of this ordinance, but somehow we got ensnared in this ordinance because of a product we sell at the café.”

Hemp, CBD regulations to be revisited
Some of the North Shore Café menu offerings contain hemp. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

Geller said the café uses hemp powder as an ingredient in some menu items and he showed the commission a package of the product used.

The café’s online menu includes an Acai Hemp Protein Bowl and smooth­ies that contain hemp protein, hemp seeds or hemp powder. Geller said the hemp product the café uses has a THC level of one-thousandth of one percent.

“They call it industrial hemp. Completely safe and legal. We feed this to our children. It has nothing to do with CBD,” he said. “North Shore Café has never sold CBD products. We don’t intend to sell CBD products.”

Making an analogy, Geller said, “The poppy seed comes from the poppy plant. The poppy plant also produces opium and heroin. No one is making poppy seeds illegal or banning lemon poppyseed muffins or poppy seed bagels, because they come from a different part of the plant.”

He also said, “This ordinance needs to be more specific and actually go after CBD products and synthetic CBDs.”

In response, Murphy said the cur­rent ordinance was enacted in 2015 to prohibit medical marijuana dispensa­ries before Florida voters approved the sale of medical marijuana. All three Anna Maria Island cities prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries and Holmes Beach is the only Island city that permits CBD sales.

“We didn’t want pot dispensaries in the city and we didn’t want smoke shops. That’s what that commission was after,” Murphy said, noting none of the current commissioners were in office in 2015.

Commissioner Jon Crane asked if the Gellers could wait until after the March 14 meeting to address the code enforcement citation they received. Murphy said the city is compelled to enforce the ordinance but the mayor has some discretion as to how the enforcement is conducted.

The commission unanimously supported Murphy’s suggestion to place the matter on the agenda for its March 14 meeting.

STATE, FEDERAL LAWS

According to the Florida Depart­ment of Agriculture and Consumer Services website, the 2018 Farm Bill adopted by the federal government created a process for states and tribal governments to establish state hemp programs in which individuals could legally cultivate hemp. The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the federal Controlled Substances Act.

In 2019, the Florida Legislature adopted a state hemp program in which hemp is considered an agricultural commodity and hemp-derived cannabi­noids are not controlled substances or adulterants. State laws defines hemp as any part of the cannabis plant that does not contain more than 0.3% of THC.

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