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Florida Bans Delta-8, Puts THC Caps On Hemp-Derived Products

The measure says that the THC cannot exceed 5 milligrams per serving or 50 milligrams per package

The Florida Legislature has approved a bill to regulate hemp-derived products in the state and eliminate delta-8 THC, which is banned in 17 states and severely restricted in seven more — though it is a popular item sold in retail establishments and people have used it for chronic illnesses.

Both chambers approved the legislation last week.

The Florida Senate passed the measure (SB 1698), sponsored by Polk County Republican Colleen Burton, unanimously, 39-0. That vote came just a few hours after a more contested vote in the House, where it was approved on a 64-48 vote.

For the past two years, the Legislature has worked on attempting to regulate the amount of THC in hemp-derived products. THC is the main component in cannabis that provides the psychoactive or “high” effect. The measure also bans the sale of all delta-8 products, one of the most popular items sold in retail establishments throughout the state over the past four years. And it also prohibits businesses from possessing hemp extract products that are considered “attractive” to children.

[Read the five-part Talking Joints Memo series on synthetic cannabinoids in Massachusetts here]

The measure says that the THC cannot exceed 5 milligrams per serving or 50 milligrams per package. Burton and the sponsor of the measure in the House, Manatee County’s Tommy Gregory, had originally set the limits at 2 milligrams per serving and 10 milligrams per package, but Gregory amended the limits earlier this week after taking input from the hemp industry.

Yet many of those who work in the hemp business in Florida say that those slightly increased THC caps are not going to be sufficient in terms of sustaining their economic vitality.

Throughout the past two legislative sessions in Tallahassee, professionals in the hemp industry and individuals who say that they have received medical benefits from hemp-derived products have come faithfully to each and every committee meeting, stressing to state lawmakers not to make such changes.

In January, Tallahassee resident Kassie Stuart told lawmakers that she was diagnosed at the age of 17 with idiopathic genetic epilepsy, which can result in intense seizures. She said that nothing had helped her until she began using delta-8 THC nearly four years ago. Since she began using that product, she said she had gone from having a couple of seizures a day to suffering from only one or two a year.

“I had my medical [marijuana] card for a little bit,” she said at the January meeting. “It was helping, but it wasn’t giving me the medical relief that I needed when I was introduced to delta-8 and it really helped me. I feel like if I’m ‘spazzy’ or ‘seizey’ or if I have a really bad headache, I can just hit my [vape] pen a couple of times or eat some edibles, and it goes away in a couple of minutes.”

But if the bill is signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, delta-8 will be illegal in Florida on October 1.

According to the National Cannabis Industry Association, delta-8 THC is banned in 17 states and severely restricted in seven more.

In committee meetings leading into the regular 2024 legislative session, lawmakers also heard from health officials about how children have ingested such products, despite the 2023 law, at times leading them to go to the hospital.

And on the House floor on Wednesday, Gregory dismissed the concerns expressed by lawmakers after several of them said they had been besieged with thousands of emails from constituents that if the bill passes, they will have no choice but to go to drug dealers to get pain relief.

“That statement answers the question for you what these products are,” he said. “They’re drugs. They’re recreational drugs. And yes, if we say if you can’t buy them, and you’re a drug user, then sure, maybe you’ll go to a drug dealer. Maybe you’ll do the right thing and stop using drugs.”

Broward County Democrat Hillary Cassel said that the Legislature should not ignore the pleas from the public about how they will be deprived from receiving medical benefits from these products.

“It was the people,” she said. “It was the mothers. It was the people living with chronic illnesses. Cancer. Lupus. And the list goes on and on talking about how these products changed their lives.”

But GOP Rep. Joel Rudman, a Panhandle-based physician, said that it was important that the state needs to regulate — not ban— hemp-derived products.

“You could get Sushi at a gas station, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it,” he said.

After the Legislature approved the measure on Wednesday, those in the hemp industry lamented the move.

“Today the Florida Legislature ignored the widespread opposition from the Florida hemp industry, consumers, and residents, and instead voted to ban safe, lawful products that many individuals seek to improve their quality of life,” said JJ Coombs, the co-founder and CEO of several Florida Hemp companies. “Passing a bill like this could force consumers to purchase products from the unregulated market. The Florida Legislature is well on its way to eliminating several beneficial hemp and CBD products, ending Florida’s hemp industry as we know it.”

This article was republished from the Florida Phoenix under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. You can read the original story here.