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Cannabis business group wants synthetic intoxicants regulated

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(The Center Square) – A coalition of scientists, safety advocates, Illinois state lawmakers and cannabis industry groups are pushing to regulate synthetic intoxicants, like Delta-8 and Delta-10.

Chris Lindsey, director of state advocacy and public policy at the American Trade Association of Cannabis and Hemp, said the coalition is talking with members of Congress with the U.S. Farm Bill back up. In 2018, the Farm Bill defined hemp as separate from marijuana and removed it from the schedule of controlled substances.

“Some folks then said, ‘Well then anything we can ever come up with to do with this plant must be OK.’ The DEA and the FDA take a much different view. What we are asking Congress to do is to clarify what they did. They did take hemp off the controlled substances list, but that doesn’t allow operators to then synthesize controlled substances from that hemp and then call it ‘hemp,’” said Lindsey.

State Sen. Celina Villanueva, D-Chicago, was one of the legislators who negotiated the original cannabis law in 2019. Villanueva said cannabis products were never intended to be sold to children.

“The landscape surrounding hemp consumption has been marred by confusion and risks,” said Villanueva. “The proliferation of unregulated THC products has not only confused consumers but has also put them in harm’s way. This situation cannot continue to go unchecked.”

The Hemp Consumer Products Act, Senate Bill 3926, would create a regulatory framework for hemp consumer products, establishing standards for testing, licensing and labeling akin to cannabis.

At a news conference Thursday in Springfield, the coalition pointed to a bag of Fritos and to something else that looked like a bag of Fritos.

The look-alike bag of Fritos was actually a hemp product, which was synthesized to contain an intoxicant known as Delta-8.

Tiffany Chappel, executive director of the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois, said what appeared to be corn chips were actually 600 milligrams of Delta-8.

“The packaging looks identical and it poses a threat to children. It can cause problems for consumers of all ages,” said Chappel.

Chappel said amplification of the potency of hemp creates what she calls “Frankenstein weed” and she said it is oftentimes well over the legal limits of THC and hemp products as dictated by federal law and contains things like metal and lead.

“This is why Illinois needs to push pause on these products … so health experts and policy experts can study in more depth and then decide if there’s a way to make these products sold and consumed safely and legally,” said Chappel.

When asked if the legalization of cannabis to begin with led to this synthesized intoxicant being sold, Chappel said that there are perfectly safe hemp products like “Charlotte’s Web” being sold but then you’ve got things like the look-alike Delta-8 Fritos bag.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 2015, about 4 million people in the United States met the diagnostic criteria for a marijuana use disorder. Marijuana use disorders are often associated with dependence in which a person feels withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug.