In recent years, Jonny Griffis has invested millions of dollars in his legal marijuana farm in northern Michigan, which produces extracts for use in things like gummy bears and vape oils.
But now that farm, like many other licensed crops in states that have legalized marijuana, faces an existential threat: high-induced cannabis compounds derived not from the highly regulated and taxed legal marijuana industry, but from a chemical process that involves regulation. less strict and cheap. cultivated hemp.
“It’s going to make our farm obsolete,” Griffis, True North Collective’s chief operating officer, told the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency recently. “The $ 3 million or so they invest … is going to be eliminated.”
“Most producers don’t like to hear that,” said Abe Fleishman of Northstar Hemp in Oregon, “because they feel like it’s taking away from the market, but it’s a great product. It provides an opportunity for companies to scale production. on the one hand, and make a new product that, in my opinion, is cleaner than your regular THC products. “
At the heart of the problem is THC, the major intoxicating component of marijuana. Although marijuana and hemp are the same plant (cannabis), the distinction between the two is legal and is reduced to the amount of THC in the plant, specifically the amount of a type of THC called delta-9.
Hemp is defined in federal law by its low THC-9 content and is traditionally used for food, clothing, and industrial applications. “Rope not dope” has long been a motto for those who advocated the legalization of hemp.
But since Congress passed the 2018 agricultural bill, which authorizes hemp cultivation nationwide under state or tribal licensing programs, there has been an unintended consequence: people exploiting what they see as a breach in the law took that hemp, extracted an intoxicating compound called CBD and changed it chemically, usually by adding solvents and heat, into various types of harmful THC.
Unlike completely artificial, often dangerous drugs, known as K2 or Spice and called “synthetic marijuana,” the chemically created THC in question here consists of molecules that are found naturally in cannabis, albeit sometimes in small amounts. It is much cheaper to produce THC chemically from hemp than to extract it from marijuana.
Because it is derived from hemp, that THC, often in a form called delta-8, can end up in sweets, vape oils, and other products sold at gas stations, convenience stores, and online, even in states where marijuana it is illegal. The Food and Drug Administration warned last year that substances pose a risk to public health due to multiple factors, including the way they are marketed and their possible contamination when they are manufactured.
States are beginning to ban chemically created THC
At least 17 states have banned such products, but they are still available in many, including the pioneering state of legal marijuana in Washington, D.C. , regulated and tested. .
The Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission granted marijuana licensees a six-month grace period to sell cannabis THC intoxicants they had already purchased before their ban went into effect in July.
In California, cannabis-derived THC products are not allowed in legal marijuana stores, but regulators are examining the steps needed to allow them.
In Michigan, the Marijuana Regulatory Agency is considering rules that allow processors to convert CBD to THC with the agency’s prior written approval, which would require demonstrations of the conversion method and product testing. They would also have to label their product as synthetic, a suggestion that angers processors who point out that molecules are found in nature.
Virginia lawmakers passed a bill this month to strictly limit the amount of THC allowed in hemp products; Governor Glenn Youngkin has not yet signed it. In Kentucky and Georgia, recent lawsuits have attempted to establish that delta-8 products are legal; a Kentucky judge sided with cannabis advocates there on Feb. 28, allowing the products to continue to be sold while lawmakers consider the ban.
The U.S. Hemp Roundtable, a hemp industry association, denounced the use of CBD extracted from hemp to create intoxicating products, saying it “undermines the integrity of the hemp industry and the intent of the 2018 Farm Bill.”
Overwhelming industrialization of the cannabis industry?
His followers believe that chemically derived THC is economical and environmentally friendly. Hemp can be grown in large fields outdoors, without expensive lighting systems, and can have a lower carbon footprint than marijuana.
In addition, processors can make a more consistent product using chemistry to make THC from CBD, they say, and regulators should not hinder market innovations or pick winners and losers in the industry. Compare it to the vanilla or caffeine created synthetically added to food and drink.
For critics, security is not proven; the manufacturing process may leave traces of unidentifiable compounds. The method also allows the manufacture of lesser known cannabis compounds whose health effects are not well understood.
Chemically produced THC is unlikely to displace the dried cannabis flower preferred by many connoisseurs, but it is so cheap to manufacture that it drastically undermines marijuana growers who focus on the extract market and have spent a lot of time and money adapting. to strict standards for your industry.
Griffis said he has seen the price of delta-9 distillate fall from $ 50,000 a liter to $ 6,000 – and falling – as hemp-made THC floods the market.
“It’s a problem that almost every state cannabis regulator is thinking about,” said Gillian Schauer, executive director of the Association of Cannabis Regulators. “It is presenting many challenges to protect public health and consumer safety, and also to protect existing state cannabis markets.”
And, Schauer said, THC chemically made from hemp is just the tip of the iceberg: it can also be made from bioengineered yeast, so regulators will soon find themselves struggling with that as well.
Colorado and Washington, which in 2012 became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, last year made it clear that cannabinoids of synthetic origin, including THC, are not allowed in their legal industries.
Following the uproar of licensed producers who said they were being undermined, the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board seized more than 1,600 pounds (726 kilograms) of chemically created THC products made by a single licensed marijuana company, Unicorn. Brands. The council went on to ban them from the regulated market.
For David Postman, chairman of the state board, cannabis-made THC represents an industrialization of the cannabis industry that is not sure what voters wanted when they passed Washington’s legal marijuana law, which was introduced as a harm reduction measure. .
“The LCB and most of the cannabis industry don’t think the legal market should include lab-created THC to undermine the mind,” Postman said. “Allowing synthetically derived THC into the state’s legal cannabis market could devastate the industry.”
Vicki Christophersen, a lobbyist for the Washington CannaBusiness Association, argues that the board’s approach is stifling innovation in ways that hinder competition at the national level for Washington should the federal marijuana ban ever be lifted.
“The collaborations that take place between the hemp industry and the adult cannabis industry are not only inevitable, they are important,” he said. “We need to look at what is going to move Washington’s industry forward along with all the other competing states that are advancing at a much higher rate than us.”
Johnson reported from Seattle.
Legalized pot industry, states wrestle with chemically made THC loophole Source link Legalized pot industry, states wrestle with chemically made THC loophole