A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

In final days of legislative session, lawmakers weigh whether to make hemp-derived product illegal

By Jack Brammer
NKyTribune reporter

Rose Henry-Seeger, owner and operator of  Kentucky Girl Hemp in Burlington, recently pleaded with readers of her Facebook page to contact their state lawmakers in Frankfort and urge them to vote no on a bill to ban certain intoxicating hemp products.

“Please keep making calls!” said the post. “Hemp is about to get a huge blow and will cause several of us to close.”

Henry-Seeger, whose business sells hemp products at the retail store and at various farmers’ markets, was referring to Senate Bill 170.

Sen. Paul Hornback

The measure, sponsored by state Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, would ban production of intoxicating hemp-derived products, including the popular compound Delta-8 THC.

Delta-8 THC is sometimes referred to as “marijuana lite.” The trendy compound is known for a mild psychoactive experience that supporters say provides health benefits, such as relief from cancer, anxiety, arthritis, migraines, dementia, menopause, PTSD, Parkinson and other diseases. It is not as potent as Delta-9 THC, which is derived from cannabis rather than hemp.

The Senate bill came at the urging of the state Department of Agriculture and is designed to end a legal fight that has been occurring in Boone Circuit Court.

The Kentucky Hemp Association last year sued in Boone Circuit Court Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles and State Police Commissioner Phillip Burnett Jr. in their roles as state officials.

The non-profit said state police illegally conducted raids of shops selling hemp products as part of a crackdown on Delta-8 THC.

The Agriculture Department had issued a letter last April, affirming that non-intoxicating hemp is legal to grow in Kentucky but saying Delta 8 is “an intoxicating synthetics substance,” a Schedule I controlled substance, thus illegal.  That led to police raids on some hemp stress.

The hemp association, represented by Crestview Hills attorney Chris Wiest, said Delta 8 is a derivative of hemp, which is legal in Kentucky, and therefore is not a controlled substance.

Kentucky Girl Hemp — click image for Facebook page

Last month, Boone Circuit Judge Richard A. Brueggemann sided with the hemp association and issued a temporary injunction against the state.

In a 19-page order, the judge said Agriculture Commissioner Quarles and his department could not, at least while the case is being deliberated, revoke licenses of anyone selling Delta 8 and the state police could not conduct raids on such businesses.

The judge said it is the legislature’s role to determine if Delta-8 THC is legal or illegal.

The state Senate on March 9 voted 23-13 in favor of Hornback’s bill to stop Delta 8. The measure went to the House on March 10 but the House has not acted on it.

Hornback said earlier this week that he told House leaders to hold the bill while he worked on making changes to it.

“I strongly believe Delta 8 is a product that should not be sold the way it is,” said the lawmaker. “The federal government was supposed to make regulations on it the last two years but have not. There’s nothing now to stop a 10-year-old from buying it. I’ve talked to people in the hemp business and have an amendment.”

Hornback said his amendment would limit the sales of Delta 8 to persons at least 21 years of age.
Also, the product would have to be behind store counters and the sales would be regulated by the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which also regulates alcohol and tobacco sales.

The state Cabinet for Health and Family Services would have to write regulations for the sale of Delta 8 by Oct. 1.

Katie Moyer, president of the Kentucky Hemp Association and founder of Kentucky Work Hemps, a seed and root processing facility based in Crofton in Christian County, said she has not yet seen Hornback’s amendment to SB 170 but is likely amenable to it.

“I totally opposed the initial bill and I think it was misguided for him to suggest Delta 8 was being sold to children,” she said. “Most retailers will not sell Delta 8 to children. I agree with him that the buyer should be at least 21 and the product be behind the counter.”

Concerning oversight by the state ABC, Moyer said she is “never fond of a new bureaucracy but we probably could go along with that.”

If the amended bill becomes law, she said, the hemp association may no longer need a lawsuit against the state.

“Lawmakers need to realize that many people need Delta 8,” she said. “It is a welcome alternative to medical marijuana, which Kentucky does not have, and it doesn’t come with the marijuana high.”

Moyer noted that SB 170 is a different issue than another bill in the General Assembly that would legalize medical marijuana.

Dee Dee Taylor, a member of the Kentucky Hemp Association and owner of 502 Hemp Wellness Center in Louisville, said she hopes the amended SB 170 will not require any more licensing.

“We only sell Delta 8 to people 21 and up,” she said. “There may be some gas stations that sell it to people younger so I have no problem with limiting it to people at least 21.

“Elimination of all Delta 8 would decimate the hemp industry.”

Rose Henry-Seeger, with Kentucky Girl Hemp in Burlington, said she is hoping that in the final days of this year’s Kentucky General Assembly the House amends Hornback’s bill and the Senate agrees with the changes.  The legislative session is to end April 14.

“I don’t want Delta 8 banned,” she said. “I know a lot of people who depend on it don’t want it banned either.”

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One Comment

  1. John Thomas says:

    This whole Delta-8 THC issue is a big con job. – The whole idea of allowing hemp and not marijuana is that hemp doesn’t get you high. – Now that some people have figured out how it can, the only logical solution is just to end ALL of the fraudulently enacted marijuana prohibition, as 18 states and D.C. have already done.

    STOP this insane Reefer Madness witch-hunt NOW!

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