It’s true. Hemp is the next cash crop. However, before you buy a bag of seeds on the internet, locate a plot of land in sunny Florida, and toss seeds like Johnny Appleseed expecting money to grow out of the ground, first, do the research. I can’t stress enough how important it is to look before you leap; I recommend working with an association to act as a professional guide because navigating these waters will be no easy task.

Case in point, July 2019 is on record as the day merchant service providers threw the hemp industry a major-league curveball. The hemp industry had been on a winning streak and many newcomers to the business hadn’t lived through the bleakness of instant bank account closings, bad product, no product, or wire and revoked merchant privileges, but for those in the industry for any length of time, this was their normal. “I have experienced and heard stories of CFOs spending 60-70% of their time over the last three months completing applications for banking and merchant services,” said Christopher Martinez, Chairman and President of The Florida Hemp Council. The good news is some banks and merchant service providers realize the burgeoning opportunity and are lining the bases with new payment options.

Are your seeds Certified? Seeds are only certified to variety and not to levels of THC, or CBD because this data does not exist … yet. And for every state which has legalized hemp it’ll take two to three years before a farm turns a significant profit. The growing farms in Florida will not be any different.

As we overcome these obstacles and swing for the fences, the next fastpitch is CBD processing. CBD extraction is the topic of conversation lately and there’s no doubt investment into CBD extraction is already happening in Florida. However, fiber production requires retting, degumming, and decortification. This fiber production technology is advanced in China but woefully neglected in the United States. We know big manufacturers have been sniffing around but until big money jumps into the space we can expect it to move at a snail’s pace.

Rounding out the inning are the retailers, which legally must register with Florida to ensure they’re not selling unregistered or uncertified products, plus all organic labelling is accurate and consumer safe. It’s important that retailers request a Certificate of Analysis (COA) for each product being sold in their stores from an accredited 3rd party laboratory. Per the FDA, CBD cannot medically cure or treat what ails you, so labels must not claim to do so. Consumers are learning anecdotally via social media and online how CBD, CBG, CBN and the entourage effect can help with certain health conditions. If products go to a retailer, manufacturer, or other reseller, no health claims are allowed by law on the product label or marketing.

So, as a fledgling industry, where consumers can’t be told how to ingest the products, or how much product to administer, retailers must exercise caution over the watchful eye of law enforcement, manufacturers need clean extraction, and farmers need certified seeds, then how is our business going to grow from under the radar to $20 billion over the next five years? The answer is simpler than you’d suspect – consumers see firsthand that the products work for them and they spread the word. Retailers educate themselves by joining organizations such as the Florida Hemp Council, while manufacturers and farmers do what they have always done, meet consumer demand.