A state court has granted an injunction against the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) that halts – at least temporarily – a ban on hemp-derived delta-8 THC.
KDA last August declared delta-8 a Schedule I controlled substance at both the state and federal levels. The state farming agency at the time warned in a letter that distributing delta-8 products could lead to revocation of hemp licenses and criminal prosecution.
Stakeholders were buoyed by the court’s decision.
“A huge shout-out to the judge for upholding the rule of law,” said David Barhorst, owner of Kentucky Hemp Ventures, Inc., a CBD producer, who criticized the KDA and state police for crackdowns on delta-8 producers and sellers.
“The Kentucky Department of Agriculture and Kentucky State Police need to realize that threatening hemp licensees and Kentucky consumers with a criminal offense for a legal hemp product is not cool,” Barhorst said.
“When a judge is quoting the Declaration of Independence in a ruling against governmental agencies, KDA and KSP (Kentucky State Police) might want to reexamine their priorities,” Barhorst said of the court’s ruling.
The Kentucky Hemp Association (KHA) filed for the injunction last year, and asked the court to stop police from targeting delta-8 products after a series of illegal raids on lawful hemp retailers.
Bill is criticized
The injunction was granted just ahead of voting in the state legislature on a bill that would enshrine the ban, which sweeps up all forms of what it refers to as “intoxicating products” derived from industrial hemp, including cigarettes or cigars as well as smokeless products such as dip or chew; whole hemp buds, hemp teas, and ground hemp flowers and leaves.
The proposed law, Senate Bill 170 (SB 170) is drawing fierce pushback by delta-8 and other hemp proponents. In a letter being distributed among hemp companies and resellers for signatures, stakeholders say the measure, if passed, would effectively destroy the hemp industry in Kentucky.
Noting that tens of millions of dollars have been invested to develop infrastructure for the hemp sector, the letter suggests that the KDA is now trying to “move the goal post and try to declare delta-8 illegal,” without having consulted those in the industry.
“It is disturbing that none of the hemp businesses . . . were ever consulted regarding SB 170,” the letter says. “Members of the Assembly cannot imagine the anger of hemp stakeholders who feel they have no voice in Frankfort and now feel their livelihood is being threatened.”
Kentucky’s hemp association has argued that delta-8 THC is a legal derivative of hemp under state and federal laws, and warned that a ban would severely impact Kentucky’s hemp growers, producers, and retailers. But regulators have pushed back because delta-8 THC is not derived from the hemp plant in a natural manner.
Delta-8 THC is produced by extracting CBD from industrial hemp flowers and then using acetic acid to turn it into THC through chemical synthesis. Stakeholders say it’s perfectly safe: “It takes a blinding level of hubris and hypocrisy for a state which celebrates bourbon to malign delta-8 as ‘intoxicating,’ as stated in SB 170. Delta-8 products do not cause people to be violent or lose their motor skills the way alcohol does,” the stakeholder letter observes.
States throughout the USA are working to refine cannabis laws and regulations for delta-8 THC, which has sparked a vibrant gray market. Some states have instituted outright bans while others have put delta-8 under marijuana regulations.
In addition to delta-8, a form of THC distinguished from the more common delta-9 THC prevalent in marijuana plants, the proposed legislation in Kentucky would outlaw other hemp-derived minor cannabinoids such as delta-10 THC, THC-O, and THC-P.