Crackdown on intoxicating hemp products could be coming to Colorado

A bill that passed the Legislature creates a task force to inform future legislation and allow the state to regulate items that contain delta-8

By: - May 17, 2022 4:30 am

A hemp crop waits to be harvested in Lincolnshire for British CBD oil producer Crop England on August 27, 2021, in Grantham, England. The farm supplies Crop England, a British CBD oil producer founded in 2019 by Mike and Jackie Lamyman. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The CBD you just bought from a small boutique might not be what you think.

While marijuana and hemp are highly regulated in Colorado, some have found loopholes to create intoxicating products that are ending up in the wrong hands. 

On the last day of Colorado’s legislative session, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 22-205. The bill aims to allow the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to regulate intoxicating hemp products, have a task force evaluate the industry’s current rules for next year’s legislation and focus on consumer protection.

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When the federal Farm Bill passed in 2018 hemp was legalized nationally. The bill did not put restrictions on selling, transporting or possessing hemp-derived products, leading to a growth in the plant’s popularity. From hemp milk to CBD oil and even jewelry, the controversial plant is making its way into households across the country. 

The hemp plant does not hold more than 0.3% of THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana. However, the cannabinoids within it can be extracted and concentrated to create effects that are similar to that of medical or recreational marijuana. In some instances, delta-9, a form of THC found in medical and recreational marijuana that has intoxicating properties, is being added to food and dietary hemp products with improper labeling and manufacturing. 

In addition, companies are putting a synthetic conversion of delta-8, a cannabinoid naturally found in hemp, in various products such as intoxicating gummies and wax. Without regulation there is no restriction of who can purchase the intoxicant. 

“(We in Colorado) are way ahead in terms of regulating hemp,” said Christian Sederberg, founding partner of Vicente Sederberg, a national cannabis law firm. “Where we are behind, in certain people’s opinions, is creating regulatory structures to prevent or allow the types of products that contain intoxicating cannabinoids.” 

Delta-8 

Delta-8 is a naturally occurring cannabinoid found in both hemp and marijuana. The psychoactive substance is only produced in small amounts within the plant but can be extracted and concentrated for a stronger reaction from users. Concentrated amounts of delta-8 are typically created from cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD. 

Jason Hopfer, a lobbyist for The Green Solution dispensaries, in an interview with Newsline expressed concerns about the lack of state testing for hemp products and how little the state monitors delta-8 compared to recreational and medical marijuana. 

The marketing of delta-8 is controversial. While it is produced from hemp, a legal product, its lack of regulation, potential adverse effects and wide availability has led to lawmakers’ concern. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration has not approved delta-8 for safe use in any context, but there is otherwise no federal regulation of the product.

However, the FDA recently raised concern about delta-8’s intoxicating nature. Medical providers and law enforcement are noticing adverse effects more frequently. Chemicals used in extracting delta-8 and users’ over-intoxication have led to some being hospitalized or needing emergency room treatment. 

SB-205 would address the lack of governance around the intoxicant. 

The FDA sent out letters on May 4 to companies selling delta-8 and some CBD products, warning them to address violations. The violations include misbranding, adding delta-8 and CBD to food products and marketing unapproved drugs. 

Underage users will see the most changes

Marketing for many delta-8 products targets kids or underage users.

The products can be sold through convenience stores in candy form, often taking on fun shapes with colorful packaging. When the product is sold, there is no age or other purchasing restrictions like there are with recreational and medical marijuana.

The packaging usually does not contain consumption warnings to help users avoid becoming overly intoxicated. 

Law has three main focuses

SB-205 will allow CDPHE to put regulations into place for products like delta-8. 

In addition, the bill aims to create a task force that in September will begin examining the hemp industry in Colorado. The findings from the task force will inform possible legislation next year. It will also make recommendations to the Colorado Department of Revenue on what rules should be made. 

Finally, almost $600,000 will go to the Colorado attorney general’s office to focus on products like delta-8 and general consumer protection for hemp products. 

Before CDPHE and the task force can begin working, Gov. Jared Polis would have to sign SB-205 into law. Polis spokesperson Conor Cahill said that when the bill reaches the governor’s office, the governor will review it. 

Similar bills have been introduced multiple times before SB-205 but were never passed. According to Sederberg, the bill went through numerous amendments. He attributes this to an initial shock for those in the hemp industry, many of whom were unaware that products such as delta-8 were being created and sold. Drafting a bill that worked for both the marijuana and hemp sides of the cannabis industry took much negotiating. 

Sederberg said that the original draft was stricter but also held more protection for companies producing non-intoxicating, full-spectrum hemp products. He believes this was an opportunity for Colorado to “step up and lead again” in the cannabis industry. 

“The bill that we currently have, neither side is super happy with, but it does provide some level of clarity and a process to get more clarity,” he said. “So even though it’s not the level of leadership that I had hoped for, it is still a step in the right direction.” 

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Zoe Schacht
Zoe Schacht

Zoe Schacht is a former reporter for Colorado Newsline. In December 2022, she will graduate from the University of Colorado Boulder with a degree in journalism and a minor in communication. At CU, Zoe was Editor-in-Chief for the CU Independent where she gained a passion for journalism and storytelling.

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