Washington State Cannabis Regulators Clash Over Hemp-Derived THC

Cannabis regulators in Washington are facing accusations of inaction amid reports of hemp-derived synthetic Delta-9 THC being distributed through the legal cannabis market.

Full story after the jump.

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) is grappling with accusations that the agency hasn’t taken action against hemp-derived synthetic Delta-9 THC making its way into the state’s legal cannabis market, the Cannabis Observer reports. Following public testimony at multiple board meetings, a Delta-8 THC policy statement, and a “deliberative dialog” in May on cannabis plant chemistry, the issue came to a head at a June 16 special board caucus.

Former Kitsap County Prosecutor and current board member, Russ Hauge, said he called the meeting because of “the issues surrounding hemp-based cannabinoids being introduced into our system.” During the meeting, Hauge said he had “no doubt” that hemp-derived Delta-9 was making its way into the state’s regulated market and not always from hemp grown in Washington, the Observer reports. Hauge reportedly attempted to initiate an investigation into the practice but was thwarted by the board’s own Delta-8 policy statement in April and their later qualifying statement, which was posted at the insistence of the industry.

“Why are we not pursuing enforcement action? I suggest that we should, simply as a matter of law. Otherwise, we’re rendering moot our canopy limitation.” — Hauge during the board meeting, via the Observer

Regulatory gray area

Board Member Ollie Garrett questioned whether the agency has the authority to do something, even temporarily. Despite seeking input from staff attorneys, the board was unable to reach a decision on immediate action.

Chair David Postman agreed with Director Rick Garza, suggesting the board hold a “work session ” to focus on the issue with staff and agency lawyers.

During the June 22  board meeting, the subject of hemp-derived synthetic Delta-9 THC came up again, the Observer would later report. After a quick discussion about the inclusion of synthetic Delta-9 in the Delta-8 rule-making project, Board Member Ollie Garrett raised synthetic Delta-9 health concerns.

“Where do we think we should be on that subject at this point?” Garret asked—to which Hauge responded, “as of this moment, status quo.”

“We have staff saying that they are unable or unwilling to proceed with any enforcement kind of action,” Hauge said, according to the Observer.

Postman pushed back on Hauge’s narrative, explaining “a gray area in that statute” was in play and Hauge’s upcoming meeting with staff lawyers would “help in deciding any next steps by the board.”

Hauge would not back down, however, and asked if the staff was still “waffling” on whether synthesized Delta-9 was being introduced into the legal cannabis market. He insisted that WSLCB staff was content to “do nothing.”

Postman clarified that he had “followed up on the question repeatedly” with staff and they were not “sitting on their hands or giving up.”

Hauge argued that the board should hear from those “being damaged economically by allowing synthetic Delta-9 into the system” and the people who were not concerned were those who were “making money off the practice.” Postman countered by questioning whether the issue met the “high bar” needed for public safety emergency rules. Garrett insisted the board be “proactive” and not “reactive” regarding the unfolding situation.

Postman repeated that he was not on one side or the other and was continuing to “ask questions.”

Licensees speak up

During the June 23 board meeting’s public comment session, a number of Washington state-licensed operators voiced their concerns surrounding the practice of introducing hemp-derived Delta 9 into the regulated cannabis market. Those who testified were concerned about improper solvent labeling and they agreed the law was clear that synthetic cannabinoids are prohibited under the state law which says in part:

“Licensed marijuana producers and licensed marijuana processors may use a CBD product as an additive for the purpose of enhancing the cannabidiol concentration of any product authorized for production, processing, and sale under this chapter.”

Crystal Oliver of the Washington Sun Growers Association, who sent a consumer protection complaint to the Washington State Attorney General in April regarding the introduction of Delta-9 into the market, said, “the law is clear, the sale of synthetic cannabinoids is not allowed.”

“Yet we have licensees who are being permitted to sell chemically synthesized cannabinoids to the public with no transparency or truth in labeling,” she said during her remarks. “The law is clear CBD may only be used as an additive to increase cannabidiol content of a marijuana product. Yet we have licensees who are using it to increase the tetrahydrocannabinol content of their products.”

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