Virginia hemp farmers are worried about a bill that state lawmakers passed last week. Farmers are worried the bill could spell the end of the state’s CBD industry. The measure, Senate Bill 591, was passed by the House of Delegates of March 9 and approved by the state Senate the following day. The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin for his consideration.
The bill bans any substance that contains more than 0.3 percent, more than 0.25 milligrams of THC per serving or more than one milligram of THC per package. The prohibition covers all forms of natural and synthetic THC including Delta-8. Virginia legalized recreational marijuana last year. However, regulated adult-use cannabis dispensaries are expected to open no sooner than 2023. As a result, products containing Delta-8 THC, which is federally unregulated because of a loophole in the 2018 Farm Bill, have become popular in Virginia and other states without legal marijuana.
“This product is dangerous because people don’t understand the impact, the safety issues,” Sen. Emmett Hanger, the sponsor of the legislation, said of Delta-8 THC.
The original intent of Hanger’s bill was to regulate licensed marijuana products with a ban on packaging that could be appealing to children. But Hanger said that he added provisions to prohibit unregulated products after hearing stories of children ending up in the hospital after consuming them.
“We ended up fashioning a bill that not only dealt with the gummies but is also targeted at Delta-8 products that are in a number of edible type products that are packaged in a way that have an appeal to children and unsuspecting adults,” Hanger said.
Farmers Fear Bill Threatens State Hemp Industry
Virginia’s state legislature passed Senate Bill 591 with strong bipartisan support in both chambers. But the state’s hemp growers and processors are worried that the bill could be disastrous for Virginia’s hemp and CBD industry. Hemp farmer Reed Anderson is the owner of Kame Naturals, a line of CBD products. He is concerned that if the bill passes he will not be able to use the plants he is growing this season.
“It’s been an emotional few days,” Anderson told local media. “You know you get into this business, wanting to help people, and when it all gets ripped out of your hands and essentially gutted in a matter of days, it’s really sad.”
“This makes Virginia the most restrictive state in America, as far as CBD and hemp is concerned,” he added.
Hanger said that he supports the state’s hemp growers and processors. He said he’s willing to work with them to improve the legislation.
“The products that I’m really targeting, those that are edible products that are laced with concentrates of hemp that will make you high,” Hanger said. “Certainly, we don’t want those being distributed in an unregulated market.”
Jason Amatucci, the president of the Virginia Hemp Coalition, said that he supports the provisions of the legislation to ensure products are not attractive to children. But as written, Senate Bill 591 “throws the whole hemp industry under the bus.” He said the THC limit is so low that the legislation would criminalize most hemp products manufactured today.
“This bill doesn’t do anything to actually solve the problem,” Amatucci said. “It actually just hurts the current law-abiding Virginia hemp industry that’s making good quality products.”
A Virginia Hemp Petition is Making its Rounds
The Virginia Hemp Coalition is circulating a petition calling on Youngkin to veto Hanger’s bill. The Coalition has plans to deliver it to the governor next week. If he does sign the measure into law, Amatucci said that some Virginia CBD businesses may decide to relocate elsewhere.
“I’ve had people say ‘we’re leaving Virginia. I’m taking my business out of the state.’ I’ve already heard that, and I tell them to calm themselves down,” he said. “I said, ‘this is not over yet. We’re going to figure this out.’”
“All the politicians celebrate alcohol and everybody loves it,” Amatucci added. “But as soon as you have cannabis or someone is intoxicated with cannabis, everybody loses their minds in this state. They can’t think clearly, and they feel like they can’t regulate it, or they have to ban it or they have to criminalize it.”