State lawmakers introduce bill to regulate intoxicating hemp market in Colorado

Intoxicating hemp
Posted at 9:39 PM, Apr 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-18 20:19:12-04

State lawmakers are trying to regulate the intoxicating hemp market in Colorado, saying kids and teens are easily getting their hands on these products.

Vadim Epelbaum is the concerned parent of a 16-year-old daughter.

“It’s a serious problem,” the father said.

He says his daughter hasn’t used intoxicating hemp, but Epelbaum is worried about how appealing it is to kids.

“These things are made to look like candy, like you can buy Nerd Rope that has an intoxicating component. And so one of my biggest concerns is someone in class offers her some candy,” he said.

Although harmless in its natural state, when hemp is concentrated into Delta-8 or other cannabinoids, it can be infused into intoxicating gummies, vapes and other products. Delta-8 is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“Super potent products can be purchased online by anyone, including teenagers,” said Truman Bradley, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, a trade association for regulated cannabis businesses in Colorado.

Bradley served on a task force that submitted recommendations for regulations to the state legislature at the beginning of this year. That’s where State Senator Kevin Van Winkle (R) comes into the picture.

“The current legislation comes directly from the task force largely. Now we’ll need some changes to it. Right now, I believe that the limits are a little too high,” said Van Winkle.

Senate Bill 23-271 would require any hemp product with more than 2.5 milligrams of THC be regulated, meaning it would require a legal ID to purchase and would be sold at a dispensary rather than online or at a convenience store. However, lawmakers and others like Bradley feel that limit is still too high, so they’d like to see some amendments made to the legislation.

“That is probably enough to get people in Colorado high, especially kids. So we might need to be lowering that limit and then put an overall package size limit,” said Van Winkle.

“Right now, the bill doesn’t include a maximum package limit on THC. So you could have an unlimited amount of gummies, each 2.5 milligrams. That’s a problem,” said Bradley.

To give you some perspective, you can buy marijuana at a dispensary for 100 milligrams per package — compare that to intoxicating hemp that looks like a Rice Krispies Treats, which contains around 1,000 milligrams of THC.

Bret Worley, CEO of MC Neutraceuticals, a hemp-derived cannabinoid wholesaler, says he supports the bill as it stands.

“I don’t truly believe that there’s any risk or concern at two and a half milligrams for a hemp-derived cannabinoid products,” said Worley.

He stresses that parents need to take responsibility.

“I believe, just like any medications, they should be locked up somewhere where a kid cannot reach them,” said Worley.

The bill will be heard in the Finance Committee on Tuesday, April 18 at 2 p.m.

Delta 8 and other hemp products are legal under the U.S. Farm Bill, making the products legal federally. However, the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, in partnership with the Marijuana Enforcement Division and Department of Revenue, issued a policy in 2021 clarifying that chemical modification or conversion of cannabinoids from industrial hemp is not allowed. However, a local cannabis lawyer says that’s not the law.

“The state of Colorado issued a policy statement last year that said you can’t sell these compounds in the state. That’s not the law. That’s merely a policy memo,” said Robert Hoban.

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