Bill to ban hemp-derived THC goes before Tennessee lawmakers

Bill to ban hemp-derived THC goes before Tennessee lawmakers

Lawmakers in the Tennessee General Assembly are considering a bill that would make delta-8 and other hemp-derived THC products illegal across the state, reports WBIR TV’s Channel 10 News.

As amended March 17, House Bill 1927, would eliminate distinctions between THC isomers, making them all illegal in concentrations above 0.3 percent.

Currently the 0.3 percent THC threshold applies only to delta-9 THC, the most well-known form of THC — and until recently the only one that garnered legislators’ attention.

Hemp-derived THC products have become popular in the last year and a half because they have effects similar to delta-9, paired with wider availability. In places where laws explicitly prohibit delta-9 THC, these hemp-derived isomers are largely unregulated. Delta-8 and delta-10 do occur naturally at trace levels, and the DEA has said they don’t consider them controlled substances at this time. Many state and municipal law enforcement agencies seem to be following suit.

Hemp-derived THCs are sourced from hemp as CBD, then chemically converted into THC. Although it’s possible to turn CBD into delta-9 THC, processors generally make closely-related isomers like delta-8 and delta-10.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. William Lamberth, would redefine “marijuana,” to include hemp products with THC concentrations over 0.3 percent, regardless of the type of THC.

“Currently, hemp products containing the delta-8 cannabinoid, a form of THC, are unregulated at the state and federal level and are commonly sold across the state."

— Summary of Amended House Bill 1927

“Currently, hemp products containing the delta-8 cannabinoid, a form of THC, are unregulated at the state and federal level and are commonly sold across the state,” says the summary of the amended bill. “The sale of such products is assumed to be due to the psychoactive effects of such cannabinoid. Such products are assumed to significantly exceed the concentration threshold of 0.3 percent.”

If approved, the state could lose an annual $4.8 million in sales taxes, by lawmakers’ calculations. Local municipalities across the state would lose another $2 million per year, collectively.

Although the legislation would make possession of hemp-derived THC a felony, legislators assume that most retailers would stop selling these products and don’t foresee a significant increase in arrests.

The bill is slated to go before the House Subcommittee for Criminal Justice on March 30.

Rival Bill Seeks Regulation Instead of Ban

A different bill introduced to Tennessee lawmakers this year would regulate and tax hemp-derived THC instead of banning it. House Bill 1690 proposes limiting sales and possession of intoxicating hemp-derived cannabinoids to ages 21 and up.

The bill was crafted by Republican Rep. Chris Hurt with help from the Tennessee Growers Coalition.

This bill’s proposed 6.6 percent tax on wholesale hemp-derived cannabinoids would increase the state’s sales tax revenue by $3.8 million per year, according to a fiscal impact analysis.

Because its licensing requirements would also increase annual spending on administration and enforcement by about $500,000, the estimated net increase would be closer to $3 million.

This bill is currently making its way through committee reviews in the House and Senate.

Federal Bill Could Quash Hemp-Derived THC

It’s possible that hemp-derived THC could become illegal across the nation.

A bill introduced to Congress in February, the Hemp Advancement Act, revises language from the 2018 Farm Bill that put concentration limits solely on delta-9. The 0.3 percent limit would be expanded to include all THC. If passed, it could end legal sales of gummies, vapes, and other products made with hemp-derived THC.

The bill has been introduced to the House and is being reviewed by committees. It has yet to see a vote in either House or Senate.