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Washington lawmakers are urging a ban on hemp-derived THC in the state

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Lawmakers in Washington are making a last-ditch effort to prevent the sale of intoxicating and synthetically-derived cannabis products, including gummy candy and e-cigarette oil, at gas stations, convenience stores and smoke stores after previous bills failed.

“It’s being sold now, without any regulation, without any oversight,” said Democratic Senator Karen Kaiser. “It is a public health hazard and threat, and it must be removed.”

With about two weeks left until the legislative session, Keizer and Republican Mark Schusler foot scale Friday to ban products both within the legal cannabis industry in Washington and beyond. Products spread nationwide Because of a perceived loophole in the 2018 Federal Farm Bill, which allowed cannabis cultivation.

An alternative bipartisan bill — one that would ban industrial hemp outside the regulated marijuana market in Washington, but convene a science committee to recommend ways to allow it in the future — was introduced earlier in the week in the House of Representatives.

A batch of products advertised as containing industrially derived delta 8 THC are on sale at a smoke store in North Seattle on Friday, February 25, 2022. Washington lawmakers are making a last-ditch effort to ban intoxicating and synthetically derived cannabis products, including chewy candy and cannabis oil. Electronic cigarettes, from being sold at gas stations, convenience stores, and smoke stores after previous bills failed.

Jane Johnson/AFP

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

Some of these products were sold in licensed cannabis stores in Washington, while others were sold in smoke shops, gas stations, or convenience stores – including to minors.

The Washington Wine and Hemp Board last year banned synthetically-derived THC from products in the 502 Initiative regime, fearing that having to compete with the cheap ingredient produced from hemp grown outside the state would drive many of the state’s licensed and regulated cannabis growers out of business. .

Board Chairman David Postman said he wants the legislature to make clear that the board also has the power to ban stores outside the regulated system from selling intoxicating and synthetically-derived cannabis.

“It’s our best, and perhaps only, opportunity this year to get the laws needed to regulate the burgeoning world of novels and cannabis,” Postman said in an email Friday.

THC is the most prominent ingredient in marijuana. While marijuana and hemp are the same plant — hemp — federal law distinguishes between marijuana, which is grown for its high THC content, and hemp, defined for its low content and traditionally used for food, clothing and industrial applications.

Because marijuana is defined by its delta-9 THC content, the most common type, proponents of industrial hemp have argued that it’s okay to use hemp-derived CBD to make other types of THC, such as delta-8 – a naturally occurring molecule but In small amounts in cannabis, it is closely related to Delta 9, and also produces a high.

At least 17 states banned industrial cannabinoids in the past year, and even cannabis industry groups have called on Congress to clarify the law.

In Washington, the fight pitted the Liquor and Hemp Council 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 selling Delta 8 schnapps or other synthetic cannabinoids at gas stations, convenience stores and e-cigarette stores. But there is strong disagreement about whether synthetically derived THC belongs to the regulated adult use or medical marijuana system.

The industry group is also concerned that LCB-backed legislation would give the agency power to “weak” cannabinoids without specifying what is meant by that — creating uncertainty for regulated companies.

The controversy has disrupted the cannabis industry in Washington since last spring, when outdoor growers producing marijuana for the marijuana extraction market realized they were being undermined. In hearing after hearing, they demanded that the Council on Wine and Hemp make it clear that synthetic THC from hemp — which can be grown on vast fields with little regulation and is cheaper to produce — is not allowed.

The board eventually did, seizing more than 1,600 pounds (726 kilograms) of products made by a prominent member of the CannaBusiness Association, Unicorn Brands, a licensed cannabis processor in Raymond. Unicorn was importing CBD from hemp growers in Oregon, converting it into delta-9 THC, and adding THC to vape oil and gum.

Unicorn owner, Peter Saladino, is the founder of the CannaBusiness Association. He is also the director of a company called Clean Tech, which manufactures the technology that Unicorn was using to convert CBD to THC.

Late last year, Cleen Tech, which had no prior history of campaign donations, made $17,500 in political contributions, including to lawmakers on committees dealing with cannabis issues, according to public disclosure records.

Unicorn, which generated nearly $6.9 million in sales in the 12 months before its product was seized, appealed noting that its board of directors halted its business before passing its rule banning synthetically derived THC.

The CannaBusiness Association said its members are concerned that the council’s approach will prevent them from competing in the national marijuana market, should Congress legalize the drug.

CannaBusiness Association lobbyist Vicki Kristofferson said the board should not stifle innovation or pick winners and losers in the marketplace. She said the board’s enforcement efforts remain indiscriminate and unfair to licensees — despite previous efforts by the legislature to address this.

“There is a real need for this agency to evolve, to address stereotypes and prejudices against the industry,” she said. “It is very unfortunate that there is tension between our association and the agency, but we have an obligation to represent our members when they are concerned.”

The assembly proposed another bill this year to “modernize” the council by adding two members, increasing the council’s perspective, and installing four lawmakers as non-voting members.

This law, which the postman considered as a punishment, failed. He stressed that the board in recent years has filed fewer notices of violation, and made more educational visits to cannabis licensees to help them comply with state rules.

Jim Mullen owns a chain of cannabis retail stores in southwest Washington. He resigned as Chairman of the CannaBusiness Association because of his stance on synthetic THC, although he remains a member.

“We have a lot of farms that fill up on water,” Mullen said. “Bringing Delta-9 Hemp This Is An Unfair Advantage Over I-502 Product Processors.”

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