Wednesday, June 29, 2022
June 29, 2022

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State lawmakers want to nix hemp-derived THC sales

Products sold at shops called ‘public health danger’

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SEATTLE — Washington lawmakers are making a last-ditch attempt to block intoxicating, synthetically derived cannabis products, including gummy candies and vape oil, from being sold at gas stations, convenience stores and smoke shops after earlier bills failed.

“These are being sold right now, without any regulation, without any oversight,” said Democratic Sen. Karen Keiser. “It’s a public health danger and a threat, and it needs to be removed.”

With about two weeks left in the legislative session, Keiser and Republican Mark Schoesler introduced a measure Friday to ban the products both within Washington’s legal marijuana industry and outside it. The products have proliferated nationally due to a perceived loophole in the 2018 federal Farm Bill, which authorized hemp growing.

An alternative bipartisan bill — one that would ban synthetic cannabinoids outside of Washington’s regulated marijuana market, but allow them within it — was introduced earlier in the week in the House.

In the past year and a half, producers across the country have taken CBD, a non-intoxicating compound extracted from hemp, and chemically converted it using acids and solvents into impairing delta-8, delta-9 or other types of THC, which is then used in vape oil, gummy candies and other products.

Some of those products have been sold in Washington’s licensed marijuana stores, while others have been sold in smoke shops, gas stations or convenience stores — including to minors.

Washington’s Liquor and Cannabis Board last year barred synthetically derived THC from products in the Initiative 502 system, fearing that having to compete with the cheap ingredient produced from hemp grown out of state would push many of the state’s licensed, regulated marijuana growers out of business.

Chairman David Postman said he wants the Legislature to make clear that the board also has the authority to block stores outside the regulated system from selling intoxicating, synthetically derived cannabinoids.

“It is our best, and perhaps only, chance this year to get the laws necessary to regulate the burgeoning world of novel and minor cannabinoids,” Postman said in an email Friday.

THC is marijuana’s most prominent high-inducing component. While marijuana and hemp are the same plant — cannabis — federal law makes a distinction between marijuana, which is grown for high-THC content, and hemp, defined by its low content and traditionally used for food, clothing and industrial applications.

Because marijuana is defined by its content of delta-9 THC, the most common type, proponents of the synthetic cannabis have argued that it’s OK to use CBD extracted from hemp to make THC, such as delta-8 — a molecule that occurs naturally but in minimal amounts in cannabis, is closely related to delta-9, and also produces a high.

At least 17 states have banned synthetic cannabinoids in the past year.

In Washington, the fight has pitted the Liquor and Cannabis Board against the Washington CannaBusiness Association, an industry group that represents a small but politically muscled segment of the licensed cannabis industry.

Both sides want to stop the sale of intoxicating delta-8 or other synthetic cannabinoids at gas stations, convenience stores and vape shops. But there is strong disagreement about whether synthetically derived THC belongs in the regulated adult-use or medical marijuana system.

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