A new bill calling for new restrictions on all Delta-8 THC products is rapidly navigating the Kentucky legislature.
Following a ruling by a Boone County Circuit Court last year clarifying and validating the legality of Delta-8 THC, a naturally occurring isomer of Delta-9 THC (the most well-known THC cannabinoid), the Kentucky legislature has taken it upon itself to determine the legal production and use of the controversial and economically booming hemp-derived variant.
As first reported by mjbizdaily, a new measure under consideration in the State House would restrict the sale of delta-8 THC products to individuals 21 and older. In addition, those same items would have to comply with new testing and labeling requirements under the proposed legislation.
The bill, HB 544, which Republican state Rep. Rebecca Raymer sponsors, was unanimously ratified by the Kentucky House with a 97-0 vote last Thursday, according to the Associated Press.
Like many states struggling with the new opportunities produced by the eruption of the hemp and hemp-derived product industry, following hemp’s legalization under the Farm Bill of 2018, Kentucky is trying to come to grips with an increasingly complicated political and economic landscape forged by the largely unregulated market of hemp-based cannabinoids.
Following a series of police raids on delta-8 products in 2021, the Kentucky Hemp Association (KHA) sued the state, arguing that D8 and its derivative products fell under the protection of the Farm Bill. As mentioned earlier, the Kentucky courts ruled in favor of the KHA’s assertion, and now its president and the state legislature are coming together to try and figure out some “common sense rules” to help manage the sale and production of the largely unregulated cannabinoid.
As Katie Moyer, President of the KHA, explains, “We have sort of a ‘wild west’ situation. It’s a gray area. Delta-8 is being sold around the state, and it’s being sold in gas stations, (and) health food stores. But it’s coming from ‘who knows where?’ We’re (surely) not getting it from Kentucky producers who are growing it here, who we can visit their store, their facility.”
"We have sort of a ‘wild west’ situation. It’s a gray area. Delta-8 is being sold around the state, and it’s being sold in gas stations, (and) health food stores. But it’s coming from ‘who knows where?’ We’re (surely) not getting it from Kentucky producers who are growing it here, who we can visit their store, their facility.”
- Katie Moyer, President of the Kentucky Hemp Association
After the court’s ruling, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear (D) issued an executive order directing the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to start actively regulating delta-8. However, for many lawmakers, including Speaker Pro Tem David Meade (R-Stanford), a co-sponsor of the new bill, the governor’s order is woefully inadequate and has done nothing to change or improve the situation.
He says, “I’ve had numerous folks in our school systems and my local sheriff asking us to do something about this issue. What’s sad is that we have to do this in order to tell the governor to do the right thing and go ahead and push the regs forward.”
"I’ve had numerous folks in our school systems and my local sheriff asking us to do something about this issue. What’s sad is that we have to do this in order to tell the governor to do the right thing and go ahead and push the regs forward.”
- KY Speaker Pro Tem David Meade (R-Stanford)
Despite the political sparring, the Kentucky measure appears to be on its way to approval. Now that the House has approved the bill, it will move on to the Senate, which rejected similar legislation last year that called for an outright ban on all delta-8 THC products. If the Senate passes the Raymer-Meade bill, it will then be up to Governor Beshear to sign it into law.
For many industry watchers and advocates, the Kentucky case could end up being a critical litmus test for handling the delta-8 controversy. To date, 14 states have imposed outright bans on delta-8 and other synthetically produced variants like delta-6, delta-10 and THC-O. However, for those hemp farmers and product manufacturers, following state regulations and health guidelines, banning a court-determined legal item like delta-8 seem short-sighted and overly punitive.
Of course, all of these legislative and legal gymnastics may end up utterly mute if Congress takes the opportunity to utilize the upcoming renewal of the Farm Bill in 2023 as a means for addressing the issues of novel cannabinoids. For example, many policy experts predict that this year’s bill could become a vehicle for clearly defining hemp-derived THC variants along with any restrictions and concentration levels.
However, it is not a given that the ever-contentious and divided Congress will agree on the appropriate and necessary adjustments to make in the sprawling bellwether legislation, leaving it ultimately up to the states to decide. Regardless of what governing body takes the reins and ends up regulating these products, the money involved is too substantial to be ignored.
According to the Chicago-based cannabis analytics firm, Brightfield Group estimated sales of cannabinoid products in 2022 eclipsed $2.3 billion. They further predict that the number could double to over $4.7 billion by 2027. Those significant figures cannot be ignored or overcome by simply imposing bans.
Whether through legal and regulated markets or the less traditional and illicit black market, consumers will seek out these products one way or another. Better to formulate strategies that produce safe and financially legitimate solutions than those that provide potentially dangerous outcomes for consumers and damaging economic results for farmers and small business owners.