Georgia legislators are trying to give some thought to the regulation of hemp-based recreational products – WABE

In the final days of this year’s legislature, a bill regulating hemp products fell through after lawmakers attempted to insert a language ban on delta-8-THC and similar products commonly used recreationally.

House Bill 458, sponsored by Ashburn Republican Rep. Clay Pirkle, aims to restrict the sale of these products to those under the age of 21 and establish testing requirements to weed out contaminants. The proposal remains alive for 2024, the second year of a two-year legislative cycle.

Sarah Nicholls, founder of SJ Labs, an independent cannabis testing facility in Macon, said she supports these requirements because it’s impossible for a consumer to know what’s in the Delta-8 selection at the average Georgia head shop or gas station be included.

“I don’t know if heavy metals are present, which is pretty common on vape carts because they don’t get a test,” she said. “I don’t know if they have pesticides or not because they don’t get a test and then people inhale them.”

Nicholls said sellers in other states are sending products that don’t meet their regulations to Georgia. In states with regulated recreational products, manufacturers must follow safety guidelines and label their packaging so people know what to consume and what type of dose to take.

Pirkle said he was an unlikely candidate to support the bill — he’s not a fan of marijuana and has voted against hemp measures in the past. But he said he sees it as an important consumer protection measure.

“The General Assembly said CBD products should be available to consumers and we just don’t have any guard rails. I really want there to be significant guard rails around testing and making sure the product is as advertised so the consumer can make a choice. ” he said.

A similar Senate bill was dramatically pushed aside in full after Republican Rome Senator Chuck Hufstetler proposed a last-minute amendment that opponents said would have banned Delta-8.

At a Senate Committee on Regulated Industries hearing on March 23, just three business days before the end of the session, Athens Republican and committee chairman Bill Cowsert introduced a replacement for the bill with a similar purpose.

Cowsert said the new plan would “add a ban on the sale of products containing delta-8-THC, delta-9-THC or other derivatives of THC,” while still allowing the sale of CBD and similar products.

The Georgia Poison Center has reported 191 synthetic-THC-related calls since 2018, including 14 in the past year. Of these, 53 were aimed at people under the age of 17 and 130 at adults.

The center reported 2,251 calls coded as THC in the same period, up from 801 last year. Of these, 1,238 were related to minors and 932 to adults.

The center notes that their numbers reflect only what has been reported to them and it is not mandatory to report all poisonings.

Several lawmakers said they’ve heard from constituents whose friends or family have had bad experiences after consuming THC products.

“There’s a really difficult problem with regulating these things,” he said. “Many come from abroad or into other states without being properly labeled or identified as to what is inside them and certainly many of them are not tested. So I believe that in a way that was the intention of two original bills that were introduced by the Senate. One restricted sales of Delta-8s overall and restricted sales of those products to those under the age of 21.”

At the committee hearing in March, Rashaun Bush of Savannah-based hemp products distributor Lilu Farms said the committee’s deputy would break the knee for companies like his.

“It will put thousands of companies out of business,” he said.

“In other words, all of these CBD companies and all of their franchises make a living just selling Delta 8 or Delta 9 products?” Cowsert asked.

“No, they will be making a living out of the state of Georgia when this is over,” Bush said.

“Is that all the products you sell?” said Cowsert. “I thought you had all sorts of derivatives of -“

“No, we have other guys,” Bush said. “But you have to understand that there are traces of all of that in the products. The only way to not have any trace of it in a full CBD product is to make your products from isolate. That will be an additional process for the only processor in the state to isolate. Once he isolates, they won’t do it for nothing. This will increase the cost of the product. And to be perfectly honest, hemp plants as a whole, with every cannabinoid present and present, are far more beneficial than taking away bits and pieces.”

Georgia Secretary of Agriculture Tyler Harper also expressed reservations about the replacement committee, saying it would oppose the federal definition of hemp and prevent the cultivation or sale of industrial hemp.

“Not only would it put us out of compliance with federal law, it would also put the plan that we have at the Department of Agriculture out of USDA compliance, it would also basically eliminate the hemp program in the state of Georgia entirely, because that’s what it’s talking about.” specifically to Delta-9 THC,” he said.

“I think the underlying bill, the original bill that Chairman Pirkle had that passed the House, is definitely a good place to start and definitely a piece of legislation that moves us in the direction of allowing us to have a hemp industry in the state having that works,” Harper added.

But the bill didn’t cross the finish line in any form before the final gavel closed that year’s session on March 29.

“It was nearing the end of the session and the language in it was not fully checked,” Pirkle said. “I feel like (Cowsert) wanted to make sure we had protection because he absorbed most of my language about buying these products under 21, even though he put the enforcement arm at the Treasury Department, where I think he is.” should have rested With the Department of Agriculture, I feel like he and I have the same goal, which is consumer protection. We just approached it a little differently.”

Pirkle said his primary goal was consumer protection, but he was not averse to a more far-reaching bill.

“I absolutely do not want the psychoactive stuff to be available in Georgia,” he said. “These things that hurt consumers, I can’t imagine anyone would be for it. It’s the guard rails, and if the language in my bill wasn’t satisfactory, I would be open to the language that sets the guard rails and protects consumers.”

This story was provided by WABE content partner Georgia Recorder.