Virginia Governor: Exempt Some CBD Products from New Hemp Crackdown

Virginia lawmakers grapple with how best to regulate the burgeoning hemp industry.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin this week proposed a major amendment to a bill his fellow Republicans are crafting to crack down on the burgeoning hemp industry, to protect certain medical marijuana products that are mostly CBD but also contain THC.

Youngkin, who is not known as a cannabis ally, even went so far as to propose a specific bill amendment, the Virginia Mercury reported, an unusual step for a governor.

Youngkin’s amendment would establish a legal carveout for CBD products that have a 25:1 ratio of CBD-to-THC, the Virginia Mercury reported. That came after hard pushback from some parents of MMJ child patients that rely on such products from Colorado who protested an initial hemp crackdown bill because it would have effectively banned those goods from Virginia had it become law.

The original version of the bill had a THC limit of just two milligrams per package, which hemp businesses also opposed and said would “destroy” the industry in Virginia.

The crackdown push has emerged as Virginia lawmakers grapple with how best to regulate the burgeoning hemp industry, in large part because hemp-derived intoxicating products, such as edibles made with delta-8 THC, have grown in popularity and availability.

Youngkin’s bill also would require any businesses selling edible or smokable hemp products to register with the state and pay a $1,000 permit fee. In addition, those companies could be fined up to $10,000 a day for selling illegal or incorrectly labeled hemp goods.

“Following feedback from parents whose children have experienced positive benefits from CBD products, the substitute also includes a narrowly tailored exemption clarifying that the legislation will not outlaw those therapeutic products,” a spokeswoman for Youngkin told the Virginia Mercury. “Gov. Youngkin’s substitute takes into account these critically necessary products while going even further to clear store shelves of illegal products responsible for sending children to the hospital.”

A spokesman for the Virginia Cannabis Association, which is comprised largely of hemp companies, said the trade organization was satisfied with Youngkin’s compromise.

“I think they’ve struck a pretty good balance,” lobbyist Greg Habeeb, who represents the association, told the Virginia Mercury.

But JM Pedini, the executive director of Virginia NORML, said Youngkin’s proposal would still allow for intoxicating hemp goods to be sold in Virginia, because companies could simply increase the levels of both CBD and THC to stay within the legal ratio.

Meanwhile, Virginia’s cannabis market continues to deal with uncertainty that has come with legal possession and consumption for adults, but without any regulated sales, since the legislature this year failed to establish a framework for recreational cannabis companies. That, along with the unregulated hemp industry, has led to a patchwork of cannabis products in both the legal and gray markets.

John Schroyer

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