The controversial intoxicating hemp goods industry has morphed into as big of a threat to the state-licensed marijuana industry in California as the illicit market and overregulation, a prominent trade group official told Green Market Report.
Pamela Epstein, chairwoman of the board of the California Cannabis Industry Association, said she hopes Congress will amend its broad legalization of hemp to align with how states have been regulating the plant’s cousin, marijuana.
“It is to the detriment of the regulated (marijuana) industry here in California, they’re fighting a battle on two fronts. They’re fighting fully counterfeit products that are cannabis, and now they’re fighting these intoxicating hemp products as well,” she said, referring to the proliferation of delta-8 hemp products and other similarly intoxicating cannabinoids.
Epstein has reached out to congressional offices, asking legislators to include a specific amendment in the upcoming Farm Bill to define “hemp consumable product” and the cannabinoids such goods are allowed to contain – in the hopes of persuading federal lawmakers to close what she calls an “unintended loophole.”
Although the idea is still just an idea – no actual provision or bill has yet been drafted – Epstein said the concept is simple: Delineate between hemp and marijuana for the sake of national clarity.
The move mirrors a similar request by the Cannabis Regulators Association (CANNRA) in a formal letter to Congress in September.
“If we can add a definition of a ‘hemp consumable product’ and say that it cannot have detectable levels of total THC or any other intoxicant, and if it is, it’s marijuana. You’re not saying that you can’t have (hemp cannabinoids) in the marketplace; you are simply saying that it would then need to be in the regulated stream of commerce because it actually is marijuana,” Epstein asserted.
The debate is gaining traction and attention, Epstein said, as dozens of states already have enacted bans on intoxicating hemp goods, while others have put in serious restrictions for the types of hemp products that can be sold. Congressional staffers are growing increasingly aware of the legal disconnect.
There are also several ongoing court cases in various states, where hemp companies have challenged the legality of state restrictions, arguing that the 2018 Farm Bill’s legalization overrides state rules, and there’ve been a range of outcomes thus far, muddying the waters that much more. One recent hemp industry defeat in Virginia was contrasted with a victory in neighboring Maryland; the former upheld state restrictions on intoxicating hemp goods, while the latter prevented the state from enforcing new hemp licensing rules.
Epstein said some of those cases could conceivably wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court, making the issue ripe for congressional attention.
“I think you’re finally starting to see Congress taking note that this isn’t ‘rope not dope,'” Epstein said, referring to a slogan used by advocates of industrial hemp. “The hemp industry has used that as a calling card. Hemp is not supposed to be marijuana.”