Court decision leaves hemp-derived THC products on sale in Maryland

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Maryland consumers will remain at risk from unregulated and potentially dangerous psychoactive hemp products after the state’s Supreme Court declined to review a lower court’s injunction.

The state high court decision last week leaves in place an injunction that allows the sale of such products as delta-8 and delta-10, two synthetic forms of THC made from hemp, to continue. The products are made by putting hemp-derived CBD through a process in the lab that often results in adulterated products that can be harmful to users.

Maryland officials said the original ruling allowing the resumption of sales of the high-producing, hemp-derived products hurts the state’s efforts to guarantee consumer safety in the cannabis sector.

Constitutional questions

A Circuit Court in October temporarily suspended enforcement of a provision of the state’s cannabis law in response to a suit filed by hemp interests. The Maryland Hemp Coalition and a group of hemp businesses alleged that restrictions in the law violate equal protection and anti-monopoly clauses in the Maryland Constitution.

The state’s cannabis law, passed this summer, forced hemp and CBD shops to stop selling products that contain intoxicating levels of THC derived from hemp, limiting that business to marijuana sellers. The rules specifically bar hemp and CBD vendors from selling delta-8 products, which are often marketed in packaging that mimics well-known brands of candies and snacks, and are frequently targeted at children.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration bars the marketing of cannabis derivatives in food products, with both CBD and delta-8 THC unapproved for human consumption. And the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has classified delta-8 THC as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The DEA has indicated it intends to change federal drug-control laws to ban highly concentrated synthetic THC products.

Danger to public

Maryland officials said allowing the continued sale of such products hurts the state’s efforts to make THC-containing products, including those derived from hemp, safe, noting that delta-8 THC, delta-10 THC, and other non-natural THC products do not undergo testing, and have no labeling or manufacturing standards.

It now appears that the 2023 Farm Bill, which has been delayed, is not likely to draw a more narrow definition of hemp that excludes such products anytime soon. But the U.S. Food & Drug Administration could act to curb the products before legislators act on updated provisions for hemp late next year.

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