The General Assembly failed at finding a path to starting recreational marijuana sales this year — but a bill outlining stricter regulations for retailers selling Delta 8 products made its way through the legislature last week with bipartisan support.
The bill, which is now before Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R), explicitly bans sales of any substance that contains more than 0.3 percent or .25 milligrams of THC per serving or more than one milligram per package. The measurements would apply to any naturally occurring or synthetic version of THC such as Delta 8 — made from industrial hemp.
“This product is dangerous because people don’t understand the impact, the safety issues,” stated Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, who introduced the legislation.
Legalities of Delta 8 in Virginia
Since the possession and home cultivation of marijuana became legal in Virginia last year (but not commercial recreational sales of the drug), which is currently restricted to licensed medical dispensaries, have led to a wide variety of products that may or may not be legal being sold in retail outlets.
As reported by The Mercury — gas stations, health food stores and marijuana retailers sold mislabeled products that contained illegal amounts of Delta-9 THC marketed as the supposedly legal Delta 8 counterpart. Wrangling between the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate this year failed to produce a solution for legalizing recreational sales.
“Every year the language gets a little bit closer, ultimately, to what we need to support consumer safety to ensure consumer protections,” stated Michelle Peace, a forensic science professor at VCU, who has conducted reviews of marijuana retail products sold in Virginia stores. “I don’t think that the bill is going to address absolutely everything we need it to address in terms of regulating cannabis, but I do think that it gets us closer.”
Hemp Advocates Not Happy
Although the legislation passed with broad bipartisan support, hemp advocates state the legislation throws the whole hemp industry under the bus.
“This bill doesn’t do anything to actually solve the problem,” Amatucci stated. “It actually just hurts the current law-abiding Virginia hemp industry that’s making good quality products.”
At the federal level, Delta 8 remains unregulated because of a loophole in the 2018 Farm Bill that regulated the levels of delta-9 THC levels in hemp—legalizing a 0.3 percent standard that the bill passed by the General Assembly mirrors—but does not mention delta-8.
“All the politicians celebrate alcohol and everybody loves it,” Amatucci said. “But as soon as you have cannabis or someone is intoxicated with cannabis, everybody loses their minds on this state. They can’t think clearly, and they feel like they can’t regulate it, or they have to ban it or they have to criminalize it.”