Two Colorado lawmakers have introduced bipartisan legislation to regulate intoxicating hemp-derived cannabinoids including the increasingly popular compound delta-8 THC. The measure, Senate Bill 271, was introduced earlier this month by Republican Senator Kevin Van Winkle and his Democratic colleague, Senator Dylan Roberts.
Last year, Colorado lawmakers passed legislation authorizing the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) to begin the process of regulating hemp with intoxicating cannabinoids including delta-8 THC, a compound that can be produced from CBD. Although not as potent as delta-9 THC, the cannabinoid associated with the classic marijuana high, the legality of delta-8 under the 2018 Farm Bill has led to products with the compound being sold at retailers including convenience stores and smoke shops. Often, the products are marketed without restrictions such as maximum potency or a minimum age for purchasers.
The legislation passed in 2022 also established a task force to investigate intoxicating hemp cannabinoid products and to make recommendations for legislation and administrative rules. The recommendations made by the task force were then used as the basis for Senate Bill 271, according to the sponsors of the measure.
“Super potent products can be purchased online by anyone, including teenagers,” said Truman Bradley, a member of the task force and the executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, a trade association for regulated cannabis businesses in Colorado.
Bill Regulates Delta-8 THC Serving Size
Under the new legislation, hemp products with more than 2.5 milligrams of delta-8 THC would be regulated and sold only at licensed cannabis dispensaries in the state. Sales of delta–8 THC products through unregulated outlets such as convenience stores or online retailers would be prohibited.
Senate Bill 271 also tasks the CDPHE with regulating and registering hemp products, including certain intoxicating hemp products. The state Department of Revenue’s Marijuana Enforcement Division would regulate intoxicating products through administrative rules that would either authorize or prohibit the chemical modification, conversion or synthetic derivation of hemp compounds to create certain types of intoxicating cannabinoids. The agency would also be responsible for establishing labeling and advertising requirements, production and testing rules, and inspection and record-keeping standards.
Van Winkle said that he has some concerns about the legislation, which may be subject to amendments as the bill makes its way through the legislative committee process.
“The current legislation comes directly from the task force largely,” said Van Winkle. “Now we’ll need some changes to it. Right now, I believe that the limits are a little too high.”
“That is probably enough to get people in Colorado high, especially kids,” Van Winkle added. “So we might need to be lowering that limit and then put an overall package size limit.”
Senate Bill 271 also does not contain any limits on the number of servings that can be contained in a package, leading to the possibility of products that contain a high amount of delta-8 THC in one package.
“Right now, the bill doesn’t include a maximum package limit on THC,” Bradley said. “So you could have an unlimited amount of gummies, each 2.5 milligrams. That’s a problem.”
In a statement released last week, the Marijuana Industry Group said the intoxicating hemp market is “selling hundreds of millions of dollars in completely unregulated, untaxed products annually without ID checks, purchase limits, or safety restrictions. Under current law, kids can purchase these products, often shaped like popular candy, online and have them shipped anywhere or even pick them up at a local gas station or grocery store.”
In 2021, the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, in collaboration with the Marijuana Enforcement Division and Department of Revenue, issued a policy memo to clarify that chemical modification or conversion of cannabinoids from industrial hemp is not allowed. But Robert Hoban, an attorney specializing in cannabis law, said that the policy is not enforceable.
“The state of Colorado issued a policy statement last year that said you can’t sell these compounds in the state,” said Hoban. “That’s not the law. That’s merely a policy memo.”
Bret Worley, the CEO of hemp-derived cannabinoid wholesaler MC Neutraceuticals, said that he supports the current version of Senate Bill 271.
“I don’t truly believe that there’s any risk or concern at two and a half milligrams for a hemp-derived cannabinoid product,” said Worley, adding that he believes parents have to take responsibility for the children’s well-being.
“I believe, just like any medications, they should be locked up somewhere where a kid cannot reach them,” he said.
Senate Bill 271 has been assigned to the Senate Finance Committee, which scheduled a hearing on the legislation for April 18.