florida cbd license requirements

A Guide to Florida CBD License Requirements

Confused by Florida’s CBD regulations? This guide by an insurance expert simplifies Florida’s CBD licensing process. Learn what permits you need, how to avoid compliance issues, and ensure your business is properly insured for a smooth entry into Florida’s flourishing CBD market.

CBD is quickly becoming one of America’s favorite new products. Since hemp plants and CBD are federally legal, the CBD market has grown rapidly — particularly in states without recreational cannabis programs, like Florida. If you’re interested in obtaining a Florida CBD license for a hemp food establishment or medical marijuana treatment center, here’s what you need to know. 

Understanding Florida's CBD Landscape

Florida does not yet have a legal recreational cannabis industry. Instead, the Sunshine State has a limited medical program and an abundance of CBD products and hemp-derived cannabis products. While cannabis and hemp are biologically the same plant, they are split by federal legalization, prohibition, and the 2018 Farm Bill: hemp plants are federally legal while cannabis is not.

The main divider between legal and illegal plants are the cannabinoids: hemp plants are dominant in CBD (and other cannabinoids like CBG) while “marijuana” plants are dominant in THC. This is a tricky distinction that opens a gray area for businesses: as long as “cannabis” products contain less than 0.3% THC by weight or have hemp-derived cannabinoids, they are legal, both federally and in Florida.

Sales of CBD and other hemp products have exploded in recent years in Florida in the absence of a legal cannabis market. While recreational legalization is on the ballot in 2024, it has not passed nor is it guaranteed to.

Types of CBD Licenses in Florida

There are two main types of licenses you can apply for in Florida for a CBD business: a hemp food establishment and a medical marijuana treatment center. Florida’s CBD license requirements are slightly different for each.

Hemp Food Establishment Permit

Hemp food establishments are overseen by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), which requires any business that is handling the hemp plant or hemp extract to have a hemp food permit. This includes hemp cultivation and manufacturing businesses as well as processing, packaging, and preparing businesses that handle hemp.

No matter what stage of the supply chain your business is at, you must have a food permit through the FDACS to operate a hemp food store or sell CBD products in Florida. A hemp food permit is arguably the more popular kind of CBD business in Florida because the requirements for entry are lower than medical marijuana centers.

Keep in mind that there are limitations to the kinds of hemp products you can sell, even with this license. Do your homework or consult with an expert in the field.

Medical Marijuana Treatment Center (MMTC) License

MMTC licenses are overseen by the Florida Department of Health Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU) and are required for businesses looking to sell CBD products derived from medical marijuana plants, or plants that have more than 0.3% THC.

Applying for a license is complex, expensive, and challenging. Florida has very few operational MMTCs and the application cost alone (over $140,000) is enough to turn people away. These businesses are required to be vertically integrated, from hemp cultivation through processing, testing, and retail.

However, the Department of Health is required to issue four new licenses for every 100,000 patients — and Florida has one of the fastest-growing medical programs in the country, which means there’s opportunity for resilient entrepreneurs.

Obtaining a Hemp Food Establishment Permit

In order to operate a hemp business in Florida, you must have a Food Establishment permit issued by the FDACS.

Eligibility Requirements for Florida Hemp Food Establishment Permit

You do not have to be a Florida resident to apply for a permit in the state hemp program, but you do have to be over 21, which is the minimum legal age for buying CBD and other hemp products in Florida. You may have to undergo a background check, but that is up to the discretion of FDACS agents.

Application Process

There is a lot of paperwork required in order to obtain a food permit for selling hemp. The FDACS has a step-by-step guide on its website, with links to all of the necessary documentation.

You will need to show proof of residence at your location, whether it is rented or purchased. You will also have to show water and sewer documentation and meet all processing requirements for food safety standards.

You’ll also need a fully fleshed-out business plan that covers the types of hemp products you’ll sell or process as well as facility layout information, a marketing plan, consumer information, labs for product testing, and SOPs for the production, storage, distribution, and retail of the hemp products.

If you need help with this process, the FDACS offers a voluntary plan review for $55. You can apply for your permit online or via the mail, but applying online keeps the process moving faster.

Inspections and Compliance

Your building must meet the food operations standards as set by FDACS, or what they call “minimum construction standards” which can be found on their website.

You will also need to pass an inspection of your retail location, to satisfy that your operations are up to food safety standards. Part of this inspection requires that the manager or other leadership can speak to the food safety processes.

There is a fee to obtain your permit, which is set by the inspection agent and based on the “food activities occurring at the food establishment.” Your permit is only valid for a year and must be renewed annually. Each permit is only good for one location, so if you move, you have to start the application process over again.

Obtaining a Medical Marijuana Treatment Center (MMTC) License

Obtaining a medical marijuana treatment center license is a long and complex process — but it’s not an impossible task, as long as you keep all of Florida’s CBD license requirements in mind. 

Eligibility Requirements for MMTC License in Florida

Eligibility for a medical marijuana treatment center license is far more strict than for a hemp food permit. Applicants must meet a long list of requirements, including: 

  • Having a nursery certificate of registration from the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services 
  • 5 consecutive years of business experience in Florida 
  • Can pass a level 2 background check 
  • Have a vertically integrated business from seed to sale 
  • Proving “financial viability” with certified financial statements, available capital, and the ability to post $5 million performance bond issues by an authorized insurance company 
  • A comprehensive business plan that includes a security plan, robust safety protocols, a cultivation plan, a processing plan, dispensation plan, a diversity plan, and projected budgets 
  • The ability to employ a medical director who holds an “unrestricted Allopathic or Osteopathic license” and has experience in medical marijuana   

Application Process 

The lengthy application and license process are overseen by the OMMU. The process is divided into three parts and applicants are scored on each part. 

As mentioned above, your required documentation is lengthy. You will need a comprehensive business plan that includes certified financial statements, proof of funds, proof of insurance, a projected budget, a security plan, safety protocols, proof of location, detailed information on your proposed location, a diversity plan, and a background check for everyone involved in the company. You’ll also need to provide the state with your plans for managing a vertically integrated company, from cannabis and hemp cultivation through processing, testing, and dispensation. 

In short, you’ll need to have your medical marijuana business planned out long before it ever comes to fruition. The state wants to know you’ve thought through every aspect of running a cannabis business and left nothing to chance. 

The last part of the process before the OMMU scores your application is paying the fee, which is over $146,000. If you are awarded a license, you then have to renew it every two years, which can cost over $1 million dollars. 

Additional Considerations for CBD Business in Florida

Federal regulations

While hemp is legal federally and at the state level in Florida, cannabis is still prohibited. This can create complexities for businesses working in the medical marijuana industry and the adjacent hemp industry. Even when operating a federally legal CBD business, you must still stay abreast of any potential changes in federal regulations. Federal legalization is not likely, but the SAFE Act has been kicked around for years, and may still have a fighting chance at making banking easier. 

Product testing and labeling

Florida has strict requirements for product testing and labeling. Hemp products that are not tested at an independent laboratory or do not carry a COA (certificate of analysis) are not legal in Florida, as they are assumed to “test hot” or have unacceptably high levels of THC, above 0.3%. All medical facilities are required to test their products as well. 

Marketing and advertising restrictions

Like most of the country, Florida imposes strict restrictions on the marketing and advertising capabilities of hemp and medical marijuana businesses. These are subject to change, and you must understand all of the rules and regulations to remain in compliance, like not making any medical claims on hemp packages or marketing. 

Insurance

It can be expensive to operate a hemp or medical marijuana business in Florida, and you need to protect your investment. Hemp businesses are required by law to have insurance coverage in Florida – at least $2 – $5 million in performance bonds for medical marijuana treatment centers that serve at least 1,000 patients. But going above and beyond your legal necessities can help your bottom line, considering the risk that businesses assume with product liability, as well as potential business interruption and legal challenges. Additional coverage can help you keep your investment safe and set you up for long-term success. 

While Florida is not the easiest state to operate a hemp or medical marijuana business in, there is opportunity for dedicated and resilient entrepreneurs who don’t mind braving a bit of bureaucracy. Learn more about the most updated requirements from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and national regulations from the National Hemp Association and the USA Food and Drug Administration


Protecting your cannabis company can seem confusing; however, we’re a full-service insurance brokerage working with carriers worldwide to offer you the best coverage possible. We’re here to help! Please reach out to us today by email [email protected] or calling 646-854-1093 for a customized letter or learning more about your cannabis insurance options.

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