Washington State lawmakers’ attempts to ban delta-8 stall for now

Washington State lawmakers’ attempts to ban delta-8 stall for now

Lawmakers’ attempts to restrict or end completely the sale of hemp-derived THC in Washington State failed to pass in the most recent legislative session, reports the Associated Press.

Several bills had been introduced in response to increasing sales of hemp-derived THC, including reported sales to minors. Although delta-9 cannabis is fully legal in the state, its strict regulations include age restrictions. Meanwhile, delta-8 products are unregulated and widely available in convenience stores and smoke shops.

Lawmakers seem to agree that hemp-derived THC should be regulated, but not on how to do it. The legislative session ended March 10.

THC From Hemp? Yes. Hemp-derived THC isomers like delta-8 are first extracted as CBD, then chemically converted into THC.

Delta-9 is the most well-known tetrahydrocannabinol, until recently simply called THC. Chemically similar, the delta-8 isomer also occurs naturally in cannabis at low levels. Delta-8 has become popular because it’s legal by the letter of the 2018 Farm Bill and unregulated in many states.

Although it is possible to make delta-9 THC from hemp, Washington has enforced a ban on the substance because of the threat it poses to the regulated recreational cannabis industry.

A Look at Two of the Bills

One bill, House Bill 2123, aimed to rein in unregulated sales by banning chemically-altered cannabinoids outside the regulated cannabis market, so they’d no longer be available at convenience stores or vape shops. That bill would have also convened a scientific panel to research whether hemp-derived THC products should be allowed in the future.

Another bill, Senate Bill 5983, sought to stop all sales of hemp-derived THC, removing them from dispensaries that are part of Washington’s legal cannabis industry in addition to gas stations and vape shops.

Both bills had bipartisan sponsors, but ultimately lawmakers couldn’t agree on the level of authority to give the state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board, or whether to allow hemp-derived THC in the state’s legal cannabis stores, according to the AP.

The Liquor and Cannabis Board issued an advisory ban on hemp-derived THC in April 2021, saying it would work with sellers and producers to create a final, formal rule. Washington’s cannabis industry would reportedly like to see hemp-derived THC out of all markets, viewing it as an economic threat. In spite of costs associated with converting CBD to THC, hemp-derived THC is cheaper to produce, in part because hemp isn’t subject to the same degree of regulation as marijuana.

But Vicki Christophersen, a lobbyist for the industry group Washington CannaBusiness Association, told the Associated Press that banning innovative hemp products now will put Washington at a competitive disadvantage if and when federal prohibitions on cannabis end.

Federal Legislation To Ban Hemp-Derived THC Looms, But So Far Hasn’t Progressed

Federal legislation introduced in February has the potential to ban hemp-derived THC nationwide.

One of several actions laid out in the Hemp Advancement Act is a proposal to expand the definition of THC to include all hemp isomers. If passed, it could end legal sales of gummies, vapes, and other products made with hemp-derived THC across the nation.

So far, the legislation hasn’t moved far. The measure was initially introduced in the House and is currently being reviewed by committees. It has yet to see a vote in either House or Senate.