Massachusetts Regulators Grapple with Wave of Hemp-Derived Intoxicants

Legislators in the state of Massachusetts are working toward interventions that will curb the use and/or proliferation of intoxicating hemp-based products. Hemp-derived intoxicants aren’t legal. Federally, hemp is defined as cannabis that contains no more than 0.3% THC when harvested.

THC is one of the primary compounds of marijuana, the other being CBD. Unlike CBD, however, THC induces a high when ingested. However, when the 2018 Farm Bill eliminated hemp from the list of Controlled Substances and allowed the crop’s cultivation, a gray area that allowed this market to thrive was created.

Popular hemp-based products include Delta-10 and Delta-8, and are often packaged in bright wrappers that mimic legal products.

The Agriculture Committee convened with the Committee on Cannabis Policy to discuss this issue last week. The committee’s cochair, Representative Paul Schmid, stated that intoxicating hemp products were competing with legal marijuana retailers while still being produced in laboratories that weren’t being supervised and being packaged with no strict age requirements stated.

While hemp is currently the authority of the Agricultural Resources department, some of its products are available for sale at cannabis businesses licensed by the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC). CCC Commissioner Kimberly Roy stated that the commission understood the situation all local and state agencies were in because of the nature of the federal status of marijuana and hemp. Roy noted that the CCC was collaborating with partners to protect public health and safety while trying to find a way around the loophole.

Reports show that hemp-based products are also sold at premises licensed by the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) as well as retailers managed by local health boards. Now, the state’s Department of Public Health is part of the mix as it regulated beverages and food.

Last month, the public health department and the ABCC issued a statement noting that it was illegal to manufacture and/or sell drinks or food containing THC or CBD derived from hemp and ordered that products be removed from shelves with immediate effect. The executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards, Cheryl Sbarra, has in the past stated that it was a crime to sell these illegal products because they were controlled substances.

Dr. Robbie Goldstein, the public health commissioner, also told legislators last week that they had observed an increase in the numbers of individuals who were being admitted to hospitals, particularly adolescents and the youth, because of these intoxicating products. Goldstein then called attention to data from the National Poison Center, highlighting an increase in exposure to these synthetic marijuana products, which meant that their impact was growing in the state.

The proliferation of these hemp-sourced intoxicants destabilizes the marijuana market for various legal entities such as Cronos Group Inc. (NASDAQ: CRON) (TSX: CRON) in the jurisdictions where they operate while also putting public health at risk since the substances aren’t regulated.

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