Ohio Governor Calls For Ban On Intoxicating Hemp Products

January 9, 2024 · High Times

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine last week called on state lawmakers to pass legislation to ban hemp products with psychotropic cannabinoids such as delta-8 THC, saying that the intoxicating products pose a risk to children. The legislature reconvenes this month, with lawmakers already planning to consider new legislation to regulate recreational marijuana, which was legalized by the state’s voters in November. 

The House of Representatives is expected to return to the Ohio Statehouse on Wednesday, two weeks earlier than planned. The Senate will also return to session later this month, with cannabis regulation one of the top priorities for the state’s lawmakers.

Ohio voters legalized recreational marijuana with the passage of Question 2 in the 2023 off-year election. The initiative legalizes cannabis for use by adults and sets the stage for regulated sales of recreational marijuana.

The legislature’s Republican majority is planning to pass legislation to more closely regulate adult-use cannabis in the state. And at a press conference on January 3, the Republican governor called on lawmakers to pass legislation banning intoxicating hemp products including delta-8 THC and hemp-derived delta-9 THC, the cannabinoid largely responsible for the “high” experienced when smoking marijuana. 

“It is intoxicating, it is something that needs to be banned, and again, the legislature could ban it,” DeWine said in a statement cited by local media. “These hemp products can be sold anywhere in the state of Ohio, and we have no jurisdiction, we have no laws to prohibit that, we can do absolutely nothing.”

DeWine and GOP leaders in the legislature had originally hoped to pass a bill restricting some provisions of Question 2 before the initiative went into effect on December 7. After failing to reach a consensus, however, lawmakers delayed work on the legislation until the new legislative session. 

House Reconvenes This Week

The House is returning early to attempt to override DeWine’s veto of a bill limiting gender-affirming healthcare for children. In his remarks last week, the governor said the early return would allow lawmakers to revisit cannabis regulation, noting that he is concerned the lack of regulation will encourage unregulated marijuana sales. 

“I will just say that since the house is coming back next week, this might be a good time to take up and deal again, something they did not do, which is to deal with the marijuana issue,” said DeWine. “We still have a situation in Ohio every single day where people can use marijuana, they can possess marijuana, they can even plant marijuana, grow it, but they can’t buy the seeds, legally they can’t buy marijuana.”

The governor added that if the House is unable to pass legislation to regulate marijuana, he hopes that lawmakers will shift their focus to regulating intoxicating hemp products.

“At the very least, if they can’t do that, I would hope they can deal with something that is very real across the state of Ohio and that is intoxicating hemp,” said DeWine. “I can take you, if you drive from here to the governor’s residence, we can take you to a place right there where kids, 12, 13, 14, any age can walk in and buy it.”

Republican Senator Huffman is currently working on a bill to regulate intoxicating hemp products that is based on language contained in the state Senate’s proposal to regulate marijuana. Huffman said he wants to ensure that the legislation is balanced with concerns from the state’s hemp retailers, who say that a bill that is too restrictive could harm the industry. 

“There are some really good CBD products out there, but there’s others that are manufactured in a way that are intoxicating and not safe,” Huffman said in an interview with Statehouse News Bureau, noting that language in a state budget proposal to regulate delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC was removed from the proposal last summer.

In his comments last week, DeWine acknowledged Huffman’s efforts, noting that it might take a separate hemp cannabinoid regulation bill to pass muster with lawmakers in the state House of Representatives.

“I know that the House has said they don’t want to take up marijuana in the same bill that they do intoxicating hemp,” said DeWine. “So, what Senator Huffman has started to do, and I just want to congratulate him and thank him for that, he is now drafting a separate bill.”

The governor emphasized that state lawmakers should move quickly on regulating hemp cannabinoids in the interest of protecting children in Ohio.

“If we want to talk about protecting kids, dealing with intoxicating hemp is something we need to deal with,” the governor said. (Full Story)

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