Illinois Lawmakers Seek Ban on Intoxicating Hemp Products

April 18, 2024 · High Times

Illinois lawmakers last week joined representatives of the licensed cannabis industry to call for a ban on intoxicating hemp products including delta-8 THC. Under one proposal, non-intoxicating hemp products would be regulated with rules for licensing hemp businesses and the testing and labeling of hemp products. Synthetically produced hemp products such as delta-8 THC, however, would be banned by the legislation.

The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp agriculture and hemp products, ending the prohibition of the crop that had been in place for decades. However, the legislation failed to regulate hemp cannabinoids, leading to a proliferation of intoxicating hemp products such as delta-8. As a result, intoxicating hemp products are widely sold at unregulated outlets such as convenience stores, gas stations and smoke shops, often without any age restrictions or regulatory oversight.

State Representative Eva-Dina Delgado, the mother of a teen, said at a press conference on Thursday that young people are buying intoxicating hemp products from local and call the use of them “greening out.”

“It scares me to my core to think about young people putting that in their bodies and we just have no idea what’s in it,” she said.

Many states have been implementing legislation to regulate hemp products, with some calling for a ban on delta-8 and similar intoxicating cannabinoids. At a press conference at the Illinois Capitol in Springfield on Thursday, lawmakers, regulators and owners of licensed cannabis businesses unveiled a proposal to regulate hemp products. Under the proposal, Senate Bill 3926, hemp products such as CBD could be produced by licensed businesses complying with testing and labeling requirements. Synthetically produced cannabinoids such as delta-8 would be banned.

“The goal of this legislation is to empower consumers ensuring that they know exactly what they’re consuming and what they are,” Tiffany Chappell Ingram, the executive director of the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois, said at last week’s press conference. “We also want to protect the public health and maintain the integrity of our state’s long-fought-for legal cannabis industry, which is undermined by these unregulated products.”

A table at the news conference was filled with delta-8 products including candy and snacks purchased at unregulated outlets that proponents of the bill say pose a danger to young people. Many of the products were designed to imitate popular brands, including one bag of corn chips labeled “Fritos” which had small cannabis leaves on the products.

“Without regulation, we have no idea what is really in these products,” Joseph Friedman, the former CEO of the former cannabis dispensary PDI Medical, said during Thursday’s press conference. “That should be concerning to us all, especially since some of these intoxicating products are chemically modified, and widely available to young folks, teenagers and kids.”

The legislation includes provisions to penalize those who violate its hemp regulations. A first offense would be subject to a fine of $1,000, while a second offense within three years would carry a fine of $5,000. Subsequent violations of the legislation within three years would be assessed a fine of $10,000.

Ron Miller, a co-owner of his family-run licensed cannabis businesses Navada Labs and BLYSS Dispensary, said that allowing unregulated intoxicating hemp products amounts to unfair competition for the regulated marijuana industry.

“It is deeply disheartening and, frankly, a betrayal by the state to allow these shops to pop up and call themselves dispensaries,” Miller said at the news conference on Thursday, according to a report from Capitol News Illinois.

State Senator Celina Villanueva warned about the potential impact on Illinois residents if the state does not adopt regulations to govern hemp products.

“Without proper oversight, consumers are left vulnerable to a myriad of risks from unknowingly consuming products with inaccurate THC levels to encountering harmful contaminants,” Villanueva said. “The absence of regulation leaves too much to chance.” 

Illinois Hemp Companies Oppose Legislation

After last week’s press conference, those opposed to the legislation argued their case. Charles Wu, a co-founder of Chi’Tiva, a business with hemp stores in the Illinois cities of Chicago and Worth, said the proposed ban was a “money play” to eliminate competition.

“We want to operate responsibly and on a level playing field,” Wu told the Chicago Tribune. “This would put us out of business.”

State Representative La Shawn Ford has introduced alternative legislation that would allow the sale of intoxicating hemp products. However, the bill requires such products to be tested, labeled and taxed. Banning intoxicating hemp products, the lawmaker said, only creates an unregulated market for them.

“This is so strange and hypocritical,” Ford said. “Just because you ban a product doesn’t mean it’s going away. We need to tax and regulate it.”

Senate Bill 3926 was introduced on April 10 and has been referred to the Senate Assignments Committee. Ford’s bill was assigned to the House Rules Committee in October. (Full Story)

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