The plans of Gov. Glenn Youngkin's administration to crackdown on the sale of certain cannabinoids like Delta 8 hit a wall of resistance from the hemp industry. Critics of the plan argue the rules were rushed, unenforceable — and would ignite legal challenges.
“We wake up one morning and we find out that we may be in breach of the law,” stated a Delta 8 store owner in Charlottesville. “And that's unsettling to a lot of us.”
Officials with Virginia’s Department of Agriculture warned the hemp products were untested and potentially unsafe and cited more than 2,000 calls to national poison control centers related to the products from Jan. 1, 2021, through Feb. 28, 2022. A single case reportedly resulted in the death of a minor, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
The Crackdown on Delta 8
Products chemically derived from the hemp plant, including Delta 8 are widely available in Virginia stores. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Attorney General Jason Miyares announced last week that the department would crackdown on the sales of certain edible hemp products containing “chemically synthesized” tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis.
Linda Jackson, Director of the State Department of Forensic Science, and a member of the agriculture department’s task force, stated that “a laboratory would have a very difficult time — if not an impossible time” determining whether Delta 8 occurred naturally or from a synthetic process.
Other speakers noted that manufacturers are working on ways to synthesize Delta 8 and other THC compounds using yeast — a process that seemingly fall outside the new rules. Jackson also stated the state doesn’t currently have a way to test for Delta 8 intoxication in drivers who appear to be impaired but is working on a solution.
Delta 8 – Is it Safe?
The FDA has argued that Delta 8 products pose serious health risks. However, manufacturers, farmers and retailers maintain that the products are safe if properly regulated.
In May, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California ruled that Delta 8 is legal at the federal level under the 2018 Farm Bill passed by Congress. If federal lawmakers didn’t intend to legalize the now popular cannabinoid — then it is for Congress to fix its mistake, some say.
The hemp task force won’t make new policies on its own. Instead, the budget tasked the group with writing a report with recommendations due by Nov. 15. The group includes members from a range of state agencies, boards and departments, but does not include representatives from the hemp industry, leading critics to claim the state had no interest in engaging with them.
The new state budget created the hemp task force “to analyze and make recommendations” on regulations regarding “the safe and responsible manufacture and sale of industrial hemp extracts,” but did not explicitly prohibit sales of the products.