House sends Senate a bill to regulate Delta-8 THC as Senate prepares to give medical-marijuana bill its first hearing and vote

By Liam Niemeyer
Kentucky Lantern

After a court decision last year legalized an intoxicating compound derived from hemp, a bill to regulate Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol sped through the state House on Thursday.

Delta-8 THC can get a user “high” similar to the Delta-9 THC compound that laws use to define marijuana. Some hemp farmers have been trying to find a market for extra CBD-rich hemp by synthetically converting it into Delta-8 THC, and it’s seen growing popularity across the state being sold in edibles and vapes.

The Kentucky Hemp Association sued the state in 2021 after a series of police raids of Delta-8 THC products, arguing Delta-8 THC was made legal under a past federal Farm Bill. A Boone County circuit judge sided with the association last year, and the president of the association says it’s now advocating for “common sense rules” on the sale and production of the compound.

“We have sort of a Wild West situation. It’s a gray area. Delta-8 is being sold around the state, and it’s being sold in gas stations, health food stores,” KHA President Katie Moyer said. “But it’s coming from ‘who knows where.’ We’re not surely getting it from Kentucky producers who are growing it here, who we can go visit their store, their facility.”

House Bill 544, sponsored by Rep. Rebecca Raymer, R-Morgantown, was as of Wednesday a bill making technical language changes related to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. The new bill language — which KHA supports — directs the cabinet to immediately begin the process of regulating Delta-8 THC and “other hemp-derived substances.”

Among the regulations the legislation directs the cabinet to develop: prohibiting anyone younger than 21 from buying or possessing Delta-8 THC products, ensuring Delta-8 THC is produced in Kentucky and is properly tested, and requiring a standard of labeling for the products.

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear issued an executive order in November 2022 directing the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to begin regulating Delta-8 THC following the Boone County ruling.

The House passed the bill 97-0 Thursday afternoon.

Speaker Pro Tem David Meade, R-Stanford, a co-sponsor, said that since Beshear issued that executive order “there has been nothing done” in regards to regulating the intoxicating compound.

“I’ve had numerous folks in our school systems and my local sheriff asking for us to do something about this issue,” Meade said. “What’s sad is that we have to do this in order to tell the governor to do the right thing and go ahead and push the regs forward.”

A spokesperson for the cabinet did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

KHA had opposed a bill last year that would have banned Delta-8 THC products, which ultimately died in the House.

Meanwhile, a bill to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky will get its first hearing and a vote in a Senate committee Tuesday, but that is the 26th day of the 30-day legislative session, so its passage is in doubt, reports Joe Sonka of the Courier Journal. Such bills have passed the House twice.

Beshear has used his pardon power to allow people with a doctor’s certification that they suffer from at least one of 21 medical conditions to possess up to eight ounces of cannabis legally purchases another state.

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