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Mass Liquor Regulators Banish Hemp-Derived THC From Packie Shelves

Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission teams up with Department of Public Health and Department of Agricultural Resources to ban synthetic cannabinoids

The fate of hemp-derived synthetic THC products that get you high has been in limbo for months in Massachusetts. Since the influx of these so-called loophole products on liquor and convenience store shelves caught the attention of legislators and regulators, there have been multiple hints that an iron fist was soon to swing.

The big question was, Where is it going to land? And, On who? And this week, we got a pretty good idea, with the Mass Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) piggybacking a May 29, 2024 “joint notice regarding food and beverages containing hemp derived CBD and/or THC” issued by the Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR). As the ABCC summarized in its alert to restaurants and package stores:

Please be advised that it is unlawful to manufacture and/or sell food or beverages containing hemp derived CBD and/or THC. This applies to alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. These products must be taken off the shelf immediately. Any licensee found in violation of importing, manufacturing, transporting, selling, and/or possessing on its licensed premises food and/or beverages containing hemp derived CBD and/or THC faces potential suspension or revocation of its license. Wholesalers must retrieve all food and beverages containing hemp derived CBD and/or THC sold and/or delivered by them to retail licensed premises at or before their next delivery to each establishment.

The advisory, formally published on May 30, “does not apply to marijuana products manufactured under the jurisdiction of the Cannabis Control Commission.” In an attached FAQ, the DPH notes, among other stipulations:

  • As with other food, because CBD and THC are not approved ingredients under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, they may not be added to bottled water and carbonated non-alcoholic beverages. Only retail establishments licensed and regulated by the Cannabis Control Commission may sell beverages that include THC as an ingredient.

  • The MDAR Hemp Program has stated that because delta-8 THC is not naturally occurring in hemp (except for possible trace amounts), to produce delta-8 THC in commercial quantities it must be derived from hemp synthetically. While the Farm Bill did remove hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, it did not impact the control status of synthetically derived cannabinoids, thus delta-8 THC remains a controlled substance, regardless of the source. As a result, the MDAR Hemp Program does not allow hemp derived delta-8 THC products to be processed or sold in Massachusetts.

  • Ingredients not specifically addressed by regulation must nonetheless comply with all applicable requirements, and no ingredient – including a cannabis or cannabis-derived ingredient – can be used in a cosmetic if it causes the product to be adulterated or misbranded in any way.

This story is ongoing in every way—from seeing what kind of enforcement state agencies and local authorities bring on this issue, to potential legislative action. On June 11, the Joint Oversight Hearing on Hemp Regulation has a hearing scheduled on Beacon Hill, where advocates and interests from all sides are sure to speak up on this and various tangential topics.

For more information on hemp in the Bay State, check out our recent five-part series on the subject and stay tuned for upcoming coverage.