Intoxicating hemp-derived cannabinoids must be halted, state AGs tell Congress

Don’t miss our MJBiz LinkedIn Live covering “Women Leaders in Cannabis: Shattering the Grass Ceiling” on Wednesday, March 27, at 2 p.m. ET. Visit LinkedIn to register!

Congress must act to solve the nationwide “health and safety crisis” posed by the growing intoxicating hemp-derived cannabinoids industry, a bipartisan group of 20 state attorneys general wrote in a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate agriculture committees.

The state attorneys general – 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans – were trying to prod Congress into addressing “the glaring vagueness created in the 2018 Farm Bill that has led to the proliferation of intoxicating hemp products across the nation and challenges to the ability for states and localities to respond to the resulting health and safety crisis.”

The letter, sent Wednesday, ended with the attorneys general urging Congress “in the strongest possible terms to address this reckless policy.”

At issue is the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill signed into law by former President Donald Trump and eagerly endorsed by then-Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

That law legalized hemp cultivation and production under federal law.

But its “glaring vagueness” also opened a can of worms called intoxicating hemp-derived cannabinoids.

In their effort to legalize and regulate hemp-derived CBD, the Farm Bill authors stipulated that any cannabinoid derived from hemp – defined as cannabis containing less than 0.3% delta-9 THC – was a legal product.

But the delta-9 specification left other cannabinoids outside the realm of regulation.

The Farm Bill also created a “massive gray market worth an estimated $28 billion” that’s delivering “cannabis-equivalent products into our economies regardless of states’ intentions to legalize cannabis use, and dangerously undermining regulations and consumer protections in states where adult-use legal cannabis programs are already in place,” the attorneys general wrote.

The cannabis industry was hopeful Congress would fix that loophole when the 2018 Farm Bill expired in 2023.

But owing, in part, to a leadership struggle and, more recently, a tussle over the federal budget, Congress has yet to release a draft of a new Farm Bill.

In fact, last November, Congress extended the 2018 Farm Bill until September 2024.

The letter noted that, “regardless of your Committees’ intentions, the reality is that this law has unleashed on our states a flood of products that are nothing less than a more potent form of cannabis, often in candy form that is made attractive to youth and children – with staggering levels of potency, no regulation, no oversight, and a limited capability for our offices to rein them in.”

The attorneys general who signed the letter are:

  • Todd Rokita, Indiana, Republican.
  • Tim Griffin, Arkansas, Republican.
  • Rob Bonta, California, Democrat.
  • Philip Weiser, Colorado, Democrat.
  • William Tong, Connecticut, Democrat.
  • Brian Schwalb, Washington DC, Democrat.
  • Chris Carr, Georgia, Republican.
  • Anne Lopez, Hawaii, Democrat.
  • Brenna Bird, Iowa, Republican.
  • Kris Kobach, Kansas, Republican.
  • Anthony Brown, Maryland, Democrat.
  • Keith Ellison, Minnesota, Democrat.
  • Andrew Bailey, Missouri, Republican.
  • Josh Stein, North Carolina, Democrat.
  • Drew Wrigley North Dakota, Republican.
  • Ellen Rosenblum, Oregon, Democrat.
  • Michelle Henry, Pennsylvania, Democrat.
  • Marty Jackley, South Dakota, Republican.
  • Jonathan Skrmetti, Tennessee, Republican.
  • Jason Miyares, Virginia, Republican.
  • Bob Ferguson, Washington state, Democrat.