As Virginia puts recreational marijuana sales on hold, lawmakers are cracking down on another widely-sold substance that’s causing safety concerns.
Delta-8 and other cannabinoids are sold in stores across the Commonwealth; however, Senate Bill 591, which is heading to the governor’s desk, could change that.
Despite the legalization of limited possession this past year, it is still illegal to sell or buy cannabis outside of medical dispensaries.
“Delta-8, intoxicating cannabinoids and synthetically-made cannabinoids need to be regulated. No doubt about it,” said Virginia Hemp Coalition President Jason Amatucci. “We’re talking about throwing the whole industry under the bus to take care of the bad apples.”
The move comes as poison centers report an increase in calls related to Delta-8.
Some of those calls have involved children and many resulted in hospitalizations.
While Amatucci agrees these products should be regulated, he said this bill is not the way to do it. He added that it doesn’t specifically target the troublesome products, and instead broadly sweeps across the entire hemp industry, which is legal under federal law.
“After all this back and forth we finally got some settlement, and now what happens? A law that would literally criminalize 90% of the hemp industry out there right now in Virginia,” Amatucci said. “This is very disrespectful to our farmers, to our businesses and to our consumers.”
While other states are criminalizing Delta-8, the General Assembly is planning to regulate it for the first time by expanding the state’s definition of marijuana.
“It’s really unfair. These regulations change every month,” said Albemarle Cannabis Company’s Joe Kuhn. “It’s so disheartening to try to keep up with these regulations as they change again and again and again.”
The bill, which won unanimous support in the Senate, would require these products to be properly labeled and tested for potency and purity. It would only allow licensed retailers to sell Delta-8 to those 21 and older. It also only allows for less than one milligram of THC per product.
“It doesn’t make any sense for us to produce those products because the cost analysis isn’t there,” Kuhn added. “We can’t maintain that. I think that the bill the way it’s written now will destroy the hemp industry as we know it.”
If the bill takes effect July 1, it will be illegal to sell products with elevated levels of Delta-8 in Virginia. Lawmakers said vendors who refuse to comply would initially get a warning but penalties could escalate after that.
Hemp farmers like Kuhn are protected by federal law. This is leading many to question if it won’t end up in court and how it would be enforced.
“What are the policemen going to do?” Amatucci said. “Go to every CVS and Kroger and take this stuff to the department of forensic sciences and make sure it has less than one milligram in THC per product?”
Amatucci and Kuhn are asking Gov. Glenn Youngkin to veto or amend the bill to protect farmers, small businesses and Virginians.