Crime

In Texas and Beyond, Hemp Companies Want More Regulation, Not a Ban on THC Isomer Products

Delta-8 THC gummies from Hometown Hero CBD
Delta-8 THC gummies from Hometown Hero CBD courtesy Hometown Hero CBD
Lawmakers across the U.S. have a beef with THC isomer products, which have flooded the market over the last few years. Now, many legislators want new rules and legislation. Some want to ban the products outright, but many want the products to stay on the market with more regulation.

“Instead of an outright ban, the delta market should be regulated like alcohol and cigarettes,” said Zachary Maxwell, president of Texas Hemp Growers.

The 2018 Farm Bill federally legalized hemp with up to 0.3% delta-9 THC on a dry weight basis. Delta-9 THC is the chief psychoactive component in weed that gets users high. State laws mirrored the language in the federal bill, which didn't say anything specifically about other THC isomers like delta-8, which have the same chemical formula as delta-9 but with a different chemical structure. Those differences make for different effects.

Hemp companies started selling these products across the country, and ever since, some people in the hemp industry, lawmakers and public health officials have sounded the alarm on the products and their lack of regulation.

Virginia legalized limited marijuana possession last year, but it's still only allowed to be sold by the state’s medical dispensaries.

So, Virginia lawmakers had a problem with seeing delta-8 and other THC isomer products popping up in smoke shops and gas stations across the state.

A Virginia bill that previously aimed to ban the sale of weed edibles that could appeal to children has since been expanded to regulate THC isomers, according to ABC News. The bill expands the state’s definition of marijuana to include these products and requires proper labeling and testing for potency and purity. Under the bill, only licensed retailers would be allowed to sell the products to adults 21 and older.

Similarly, proposed bills in Tennessee and South Dakota would regulate and tax hemp-derived cannabinoids. But other state's just aren't having it with the THC isomer products.

Retailers in Johnson County, Kansas, were recently told they had until March 20 to get all delta-8 products off the shelves. This came in a press release from Johnson County District Attorney Stephen M. Howe after the state’s attorney general handed down a legal opinion saying delta-8 was illegal to possess or sell.

In Howe’s press release, he said the substance was a “hallucinogenic drug” that “cannot be sold to the public.” He added that hemp products can’t exceed 0.3% of total THC; not just delta-9.

Unsurprisingly, lawmakers in Texas have tried similar tactics to ban the manufacturing and sale of THC isomer products.

Last year, bills were proposed in Texas that would have brought meaningful reform to the state’s cannabis laws. But, along the way, language was attached to the bills that would have capped total THC potency in hemp at 0.3%

“Instead of an outright ban, the delta market should be regulated like alcohol and cigarettes." – Zachary Maxwell, Texas Hemp Growers

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Those bills died, and then the Texas Department of State Health Services said that all THC isomers in hemp were illegal, besides 0.3% delta-9 THC on a dry weight basis. Hemp companies sued over that and the court case has halted enforcement of a ban on the products until further notice.

A big problem that many lawmakers say they have with the products is that they’re not regulated. Meanwhile, hemp companies in Texas and across the U.S. say they’re begging for and have proposed tighter regulation on the products.

Last may, Texas Hemp Growers' Maxwell sent a letter to Texas lawmakers explaining the economic impact of a THC isomer ban and proposed regulations for the products.

“On behalf of over 250 hemp professionals that form the foundation of Texas Hemp Growers, we respectfully request that delta-8 and its isomers be responsibly regulated as an age-restricted substance available to adults age 21 and older, who present a valid driver's license at a licensed retailer,” the letter said.

Maxwell said they estimate that a ban on these products would cost the state a minimum of about $3.2 million in sales tax revenue every year. Another $51.4 million in annual retail sales would also be eliminated through such a ban.

Instead, he offered a few of what he called “common-sense regulations.”

First, possession of these products should be restricted to people 21 and older. A Class C misdemeanor charge could be an enforcement mechanism for this new age restriction.

Adults should also have to show a valid license to prove they’re allowed to purchase the products and there should be strict penalties for retailers who sell to minors, Maxwell wrote.

“For the record, responsible retailers do this already voluntarily,” he said in the letter. “Nobody in this industry wants delta-8 products to fall in the hands of minors.”

According to the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children have gotten their hands on these products and have gone to the hospital as a result.

Which is why Maxwell suggests all products be sold in child-proof containers. Those containers must be closed while being transported, under Maxwell’s recommendations. People caught with open containers on the road could receive a Class C misdemeanor.

These products should also have to comply with current Department of State Health Services product testing rules, which require full panel tests to show products don’t contain harmful chemicals, residual solvents, toxins or other impurities.

Vaporizing products should be required to follow federal guidelines of the Jenkins Act and The Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act, which help regulate the manufacturing and sale of tobacco products.

Lastly, the products should only be sold by retailers and distributors licensed by the Department of State Health Services. “This ensures that all purchase points fall under the eye of regulators and efficacy compliance can be enforced through random inspection,” Maxwell explained.

A federal bill called the "Hemp Advancement Act of 2022" was recently proposed that would essentially do away with the THC isomer products. Texas Hemp Growers opposes that bill, saying it would “destroy the hemp market.”

Maxwell said he’s preparing a more in-depth statement to send to federal lawmakers explaining what’s wrong with the federal bill and how to fix it. He added, “Among those fixes, we are calling for smart regulations that protect retailers and consumers, but will still allow these products to be sold to adults.”
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Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn