Tennessee leaders are again putting forth a bill that would regulate hemp-derived cannabinoids like delta-8 and delta-10 THC, after a previous attempt failed last year. Some hemp advocates applauded the bill, while others would rather simply legalize cannabis, naturally rich in delta-9 THC.
State House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) and Sen. Richard Briggs, (R-Knoxville) introduced a bill on Tuesday to regulate products containing hemp-derived cannabinoids, such as delta-8 and delta-10 THC—his second attempt to do so.
House Bill 403 would tax and regulate cannabinoids derived from hemp via what some describe as synthetic processes. Typically products with delta-8 THC are marketed as being somewhat psychoactive, with effects weaker but similar to delta-9 THC.
“Delta-8 is a legal substance that can be sold and packaged in the form of candy or gummies; it often has a very high concentration of THC,” Rep. Lamberth stated. “There are no regulations and no legitimate way for anyone to know exactly what they are buying. Nothing in our current law prohibits a child from purchasing delta-8.”
The bill would ban the sale of hemp-derived cannabinoid products to people under the age of 21; adds a 5% additional sales tax to any product sold at a store; and create a licensing, quality testing, regulatory and enforcement process through the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.
“We need to regulate this because the horse is out of the barn,” Sen. Briggs said. “This stuff is everywhere, and we can’t put that genie back in the bottle.”
What is Delta-8 THC?
The idea is that hemp-derived CBD can be converted to other compounds, frequently being marketed as psychoactive. This doesn’t mesh with the general U.S. definition of hemp, bred specifically to not be psychoactive.
Delta-8 THC occurs naturally, but only in trace amounts: According to Chemical & Engineering News, cannabis plants naturally contain just 0.1% delta-8 THC or less—though some plants contain as much as 1%. Jeffrey Raber, cofounder and CEO of the Werc Shop told C&E News that there isn’t enough delta-8 THC found naturally in hemp to be economical for extraction.
But hemp growers in the state are supportive of the bill despite some suspicion about emerging hemp-derived cannabinoids. “We support anything that doesn’t put burdensome regulations on the industry,” Kelley Hess, executive director of the Tennessee Growers Coalition, said.
While hemp growers may support delta-8 products, others do not.
Artists such as Margo Price support legalization, but don’t support hemp-derived cannabinoid products in Tennessee. Opponents don’t like the way certain cannabinoids are extracted from hemp, which usually means altering the CBD molecule, which is found in hemp in larger amounts, using natural solvents and acids.
Attempt to Regulate Delta-8 Last Year
While some states moved to restrict hemp-derived cannabinoids, such as Utah, Tennessee would be taking a much different approach by regulating it instead.
Rep. Lamberth sponsored an earlier attempt to regulate delta-8 THC and similar compounds. Some Tennessee lawmakers and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said that by regulating delta-8, the state would be legitimizing the industry.
House Bill 1927, which was introduced previously, would regulate delta-8 by making it illegal in most cases outside trace-level concentrations. The bill was amended in April 2022 to be more specific to include other hemp-derived THCs such as delta-9 and 10 and the derivative hexahydrocannabinol (HHC), but exclude non-THC hemp cannabinoids such as CBD.
Tennessee is one of 11 non-green states that hasn’t legalized, regulated, or decriminalized cannabis in some form.