New legislation that could put new restrictions on the state’s hemp market continues to move toward the finish line, but it may not be in its final form just yet.

HB 1613, advanced by an 8-4 vote of the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee, would crack down on alternative cannabinoids that serve as functional alternatives to delta-9 THC, the euphoria-inducing compound commodified by the state’s medical marijuana program.

These include delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, delta-10-tetrahydrocannabinol, hexahydrocannabinol, tetrahydrocannabinol acetate, tetrahydrocannabiphorol, and tetrahydrocannabivarin.

GOP Rep. Tommy Gregory’s bill, which he described as a “consumer protection tool” against an “unsafe product,” revises the definition of “hemp” to “outline that hemp extract may not exceed 0.3% total delta-9-THC concentration on a wet-weight basis or exceed 2 milligrams per serving and 10 milligrams per container on a wet-weight basis.”

That sets a more rigorous standard than the federal one established in the 2018 Farm Bill that established initial parameters for the then-fledgling industry without arbitrary packaging limits. It would also impact full-spectrum CBD products, which meet the federal requirements and include minor cannabinoids as well.

One speaker supporting the bill said the hemp industry was exploiting a “loophole” in that federal legislation to produce substances by synthesizing CBD, but other speakers noted the same process was used for other commercial staples, including to fortify children’s cereals with vitamins.

Gregory, when asked by Democratic Rep. Hillary Cassel about the fiscal impact of the bill, said it was a “positive impact because it’s a good impact for the state.”

He wouldn’t say that his bill would affect the hemp industry financially despite the industry claiming it would be impacted for following the rules set just last year, with speakers from that industry making the case that it would, in fact, harm retailers and manufacturers alike, while consumers would simply buy mail order products from states without these proposed restrictions.

Ranking Democrat Kevin Chambliss suggested legalized hemp was putting a crimp on illegal marijuana sales.

“I can testify that we’re putting dope boys out of business and that people are saying why in the world would I go to a dope boy and buy certain products. I can just go to the store and I can buy those products there legally and have no issue. That is a real thing,” Chambliss said.

Gregory took issue with people using hemp products for “self-treatment” of medical conditions that he believes should be treated by doctors and with patent medicines from pharmaceutical companies, adding later that the state should regulate “mind-altering” substances like hemp. The medical community seems somewhat in support of this position, with a representative of the American Academy of Pediatrics waiving comment in support of the bill.

This legislation has one House committee stop left, while the companion version is even farther along. On Wednesday, the full Senate will consider Sen. Colleen Burton’s bill (SB 1698).

Changes may be coming to the House bill going forward, Gregory said.

“Lots of discussions about the packaging, lots of discussions about the implementation date. Does it become effective immediately or do we give time, let’s say four, five, six months or longer in order for them to adjust their packaging? So, lots of discussions and considerations there and those are parts of amendments that we’re considering for the final stop.”

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 The Senate measure is headed to the floor, but the House bill may see changes before its next stop.  Read More  

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