Alaska Regulates Intoxicating Hemp Products

Effective Nov. 3, the same board that provides oversight to the marijuana industry will regulate hemp businesses.

Alaska became the latest state this week to crack down on the burgeoning national hemp goods industry, particularly intoxicating hemp-derived goods many Alaskans have come to call “diet weed.”

New rules signed into law by Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom last week that move the oversight of intoxicating hemp goods under the same state regulators that oversee the marijuana industry, effective Nov. 3. The rules also will add more taxes, require a minimum purchase age of 21, and erase many retail options such as gas stations and convenience stores, the Alaska Beacon reported.

The new law effectively rewrote the Alaska definition of “industrial hemp” and got far more specific about what cannabinoids and products are included as such.

The move, which was cheered by the state’s marijuana businesses while hemp companies have threatened to sue, was intended to bring more parity to the competing sectors and to keep intoxicating goods away from minors. The policy was in part a result of a state-run task force that looked at impacts of recreational marijuana legalization, the Beacon reported.

But the move will have serious costs for hemp businesses that have already invested in the previously loose supply chain, since they’ll now have to gain regulatory approval for various goods from the same regulators as marijuana businesses.

That has hemp businesses asserting that many of them will go under. Some believe state officials illegally coordinated the new rules with marijuana industry executives and are openly threatening litigation.

“We’re coming after them to sue them,” Danny Ferguson, of Anchorage-based Primo Alaska, told the Beacon. Ferguson asserted that the new rules were all about the marijuana industry “protecting their dollars.”

But Joan Wilson, director of the Alaska Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office, said she thinks the national intoxicating hemp goods trade has been an “unintended consequence” of the 2018 Farm Bill, through which Congress legalized hemp at the federal level. The new rules, she said, are meant to correct that.

Many other states have taken similar or even more drastic steps with regard to intoxicating hemp goods since 2018. Lawsuits have also become common, such as in Arkansas and Maryland, where hemp companies have filed suit over new regulations they contend will harm their interests.

John Schroyer

John Schroyer has been a reporter since 2006, initially with a focus on politics, and covered the 2012 Colorado campaign to legalize marijuana. He has written about the cannabis industry specifically since 2014, after being on hand for the first-ever legal cannabis sales on New Year’s Day that year in Denver. John has covered subsequent marijuana market launches in California and Illinois, has written about every aspect of the marijuana trade, and was part of the team that built the cannabis industry’s first-ever trade show, MJBizCon. He joined Green Market Report in 2022.

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