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Fight over regulating hemp byproducts playing out in the legislature

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Posted at 5:33 PM, Mar 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-14 21:46:54-04

PHOENIX — They come as edible gummies and in vape cartridges, laced with Delta-8, chemically altered hemp.

You can purchase them at many convenience stores, gas stations and smoke shops across the state.

"Our focus is patient safety," said Ryan Hermansky of the Arizona Dispensaries Association.

The marijuana industry is leading the charge to have the sale of hemp byproducts regulated the same way dispensaries are regulated by the state. Hermansky says it is important to "make sure people are aware [of] what they're purchasing. They're aware the products are unregulated, untested and they can be founded in places you would not expect to be purchasing products that actually get you high."

Hemp plants contain THC., the active ingredient in marijuana. In most products, the level is so small, there is no fear of getting high. But the Delta-8 and Delta-7 strains are different because they are chemically altered and possess THC levels well in excess of the .03% allowed by the Arizona Department of Agriculture.

"Because Delta-8 is technically not illegal, there is a lack of regulation. CBD synthetic products that have been lab tested have hundreds if not thousands of times the concentration of Delta-8 than you would find in a naturally derived plant," Dr. Steve Dudley of the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center told the Senate Health and Human Services Committee in February.

Dr. Dudley testified in support of a bill that would regulate hemp byproducts. The bill, SB 1453 failed. So, the marijuana industry is trying to block SB1271, which keeps hemp byproducts Delta-8 and Delta-9 largely deregulated.

"It's a testing, it's a compliance, it's a safety issue generally those products don't meet the requirement to be sold at an Arizona dispensary throughout the state," Hermansky said.

But the bill's author is Senate Majority Leader Sonny Borrelli, a strong supporter of Arizona's hemp industry.

"We started the hemp program, we said rope not dope. If you expect to get high on hemp products, it's like expecting to get drunk on a case of O'Doul's. You're just going to waste your time," Borrelli said.

Borrelli's bill allows hemp byproducts to go largely unregulated is having difficulties as well. On Monday, he requested it be held for at least a week before it gets a hearing in the House Land, Agriculture, and Rural Affairs Committee.