Legislation calling for state regulation of hemp-derived delta-8 THC products won overwhelming passage in the Kentucky House on Thursday.
Lawmakers said they’ve heard pleas from law enforcement and school officials urging action to keep the mildly intoxicating substance away from children.
“We have this product getting into the hands of children,” Republican House Speaker Pro Tempore David Meade said during the debate. “We have some that have overdosed on this product.”
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House Bill 544 cleared the House on a 97-0 vote to advance to the Senate. The vote was praised by the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, a national advocacy group for the hemp industry.
Jonathan Miller, the group’s general counsel, called it “strong legislation” to regulate delta-8 THC and to keep it out of the hands of minors.
“Unregulated intoxicating products pose a health crisis for Kentucky and the nation, but measures to criminalize these products are not prudent,” Miller said in a statement. “HB 544 cuts the perfect balance by ensuring strict regulations that will keep children from accessing these adult products.”
The organization urged the Senate to pass the measure in the coming days. Thursday was the 23rd day of this year’s 30-day legislative session.
The bill would direct Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services to craft administrative regulations for the production and sale of delta-8 products in the Bluegrass State.
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The measure sets guidelines for those regulations — including banning the sale of delta-8 products to anyone younger than 21. Those guidelines also call for keeping the products behind retail counters and requiring that the ingredients be clearly shown on product labels.
Hemp is the low-THC version of the cannabis plant. THC is the cannabis compound that gives marijuana its high. Currently in Kentucky, it’s legal to possess and distill hemp-derived cannabidiol oil that contains less than 0.03% THC, according to a news release from the House majority caucus. However, the legalization of hemp has led to the unregulated manufacturing and distribution of delta-8 THC.
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The bill’s lead sponsor is Republican Rep. Rebecca Raymer.
“The Kentucky hemp program is a staple for our agricultural community, but the selling and usage of unregulated THC is a danger to every Kentuckian who may use it,” Raymer said in a statement. “These products have no standards for production. If someone were to purchase Delta-8, they have no way of determining if it is safe. This measure will both protect our consumers and enhance the industry.”
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