Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) alongside several public officials, held a press conference on Wednesday to sound the alarm on intoxicating hemp, also known as Delta-8, and its accessibility to minors.
“It is intoxicating, it is something that needs to be banned, and again, the legislature could ban it,” DeWine said.
The event featured stark visuals, with Ohio Department of Public Safety Director Andy Wilson comparing THC-infused candies to their regular counterparts, highlighting the potential targeting of children.
Wilson, reported WDTN, further revealed a sting operation in which minors successfully bought these products at a local gas station without age verification. This, in addition to claims by DeWine that manufacturers deliberately aim for young consumers, fueled calls for immediate action. He urged both legislative intervention and voluntary removal by businesses.
Scientist Weighs In: The governor was also joined by Dr. Gary Wenk, Emeritus professor, Behavioral Neuroscience at The Ohio State University and Medical Center.
Wenk explained Delta-8 was not a problem in the past as it was hard to come by, but then companies discovered it was easy to convert CBD into the Delta-8 compound that can produce a high. Now, young people can get it easily and legally, he pointed out.
Farm Bill Loophole: The issue of intoxicating hemp erupted in early January when DeWine drew attention to these products, which are legal due to a loophole in the 2018 Farm Bill, despite causing marijuana-like effects. So-called intoxicating hemp is defined as having a high-inducing active ingredient derived or processed from hemp. The Farm Bill categorizes any cannabis product with less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC (the primary psychoactive component in cannabis) as hemp and legalized its sale across the country.
“Hemp laws focus on Delta-9 THC, leaving space for producers to exploit other THC types like Delta-8,” said attorney Tom Haren, chair of Cannabis Practice at Frantz Ward LLP, a Cleveland law firm.
DeWine’s initial pronouncements raised eyebrows recently with claims of children as young as 12 accessing these products and experiencing hallucinations, a term that typically refers to psychedelic drugs like LSD and psilocybin.
To address the loophole, state senate leader Steve Huffman (R) is drafting a standalone bill to regulate intoxicating hemp. Huffman said he wants to make certain it strikes a balance between protecting public health and preventing undue burden on legitimate CBD retailers.
“There are excellent CBD products out there,” Huffman said. “But others, manufactured in a way that is dangerous and potentially intoxicating, need regulation.”
As of Wednesday’s press conference, the bill was still being drafted.