A bill that would close a loophole allowing gas stations and smoke shops to sell products similar to marijuana is headed for a House vote after committee approval Thursday.
Innovators in the hemp and marijuana industries have discovered a way to synthesize a compound from hemp known as delta-8 THC. The compound in cannabis that commonly gets users intoxicated is delta-9 THC.
While the two are similar and induce comparable euphoric effects, prior laws were written too narrowly to include delta-8 THC. Profiteers exploited the loophole and began selling the untested products to retailers outside of the heavily regulated Michigan marijuana industry.
That may soon come to a close as Michigan moves to join at least a dozen other states that have already outlawed or placed under state oversight delta-8 THC and other similar compounds derived from cannabis.
House Bill 4517, sponsored by state Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, expands the definition of marijuana, which is regulated under the licensing framework and rules put forth by the state Marijuana Regulatory Agency, to include all THC, “regardless of whether it is artificially or naturally derived.”
Delta-8 has seen increased popularity in the last year and often comes in an oil form, usually in pre-packaged cartridges that are inhaled using vaporizing devices, but also in tinctures and edibles, like gummy candies. Beyond Michigan’s brick-and-mortar retailers, it’s readily available to order online.
“It really reminds me of that, kind of these sketchy substances that are working their way into gas stations and other retail places,” state Rep. Pat Outman, R-Six Lakes, said after the bill was introduced. “And there’s just no consumer protections or any sort of regulatory structure.”
If passed, the law would mean products containing delta-8 THC and other cannabis-derived substances would fall within the purview of the Marijuana Regulatory Agency. As marijuana, the products would be required to be produced by licensed marijuana businesses, tested for safety and sold only at licensed marijuana events or retail businesses.
Marijuana testing labs tell MLive they have seen a surge in number of growers and producers who seem to be extracting delta-8 THC from marijuana, rather than targeting traditional delta-9 THC, but it’s also increased in popularity among hemp farmers looking for a way to sell their harvests, said Dave Crabill, a spokesman for the hemp farming trade group iHemp Michigan.
He called delta-8 THC a “gray area” that some growers and processors have taken advantage of.
Delta-8 is the hemp “product with the highest value right now,” Crabill said earlier this month. “Everyone that is in the market is going in understanding that it’s a short-lived game that makes some profits in the meantime.”
If the bill passes in the state House, it will move to the state Senate for a possible vote.
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