Sarasota County denies permit to CBD retailer, citing state law

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You can find CBD products just about anywhere in Sarasota County. Joe Griffith, with CBD American Shaman, swears by it. 

"I wasn’t having night sweats, I wasn’t having the grinding of the teeth. I wasn’t waking up in the middle of the night. It actually worked," he described of improvements he noticed after using the product. 

Griffith, a firefighter, used it to combat PTSD. CBD is produced from hemp, a plant in the same family as marijuana, but with different qualities and classifications. 

Unlike marijuana, hemp contains high CBD and low THC, the compound that marijuana is known for. 

Griffith sells CBD products at two stores in Sarasota County, but he's worried the county is trying to stop him. 

"Them trying to stop us is going to stop people from getting help," he said. 

After applying for a building use permit, Griffith received an email from the County Zoning Administrator saying, "Your application and email have been referred to me as Sarasota County’s Zoning Administrator. After review and consultation with our office of the county attorney, I offer the following information.

While the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (also known as the Farm Bill) removes hemp from the federal Controlled Substance Act’s list of illegal drugs, making CBD oil legal under federal law, the new law does nothing with regard to state law. CBD oil falls within the definition of “cannabis’ in section 893.02(3), Florida Statutes, and is not legal under Florida law unless distributed by a medical marijuana treatment center. As a result, we are unable to approve your Business Use Permit at this time. We are aware of other locations promoting the sale of CBD oil within the county, and are addressing the issue."

"The letter that they sent us was very vague. It basically said we are aware of this, we aren't going to issue the building use permit, but they didn't tell us the end result of that," said Griffith. 

Griffith said the letter raises more questions than it answers. It has other businesses who believe they are operating within the law, confused and concerned about their own futures. 

Shelby Isaacson with Second and Seed operates within the City of Sarasota, but was planning on expanding into the County. 

"I think the big thing is this industry is growing faster than a lot of things have grown in a really long time. It’s something I think that every state, city, county is struggling to understand and grasp," she said. 

She believes CBD is misunderstood and only education can help. 

"I also think it’s an opportunity like myself and other business owners to work with the government so they can understand what’s going on and be able to make an informed decision for the community," said Isaacson. 

FOX 13 asked Sarasota County how it plans to address other businesses selling CBD oil. The county said, "These matters are being reviewed, consistent with county procedure."