Maryland officials say temporary ruling on delta-8 THC leaves consumers unprotected

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Maryland officials say a judge’s ruling that allows the resumption of delta-8 THC sales by hemp vendors hurts the state’s efforts to guarantee consumer safety in the cannabis sector.

Circuit Court Judge Brett R. Wilson yesterday 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 allege that restrictions in the law violate equal protection and anti-monopoly clauses in the Maryland Constitution.

Delta-8 is a synthetic form of THC that mimics the “high” of the more common delta-9 THC present in marijuana plants. Delta-8 is made by putting hemp-derived CBD through a process in the lab that often results in adulterated products that can be harmful to users.

‘Unregulated, untested’

“The Administration was disappointed to learn of the preliminary decision in Washington County Circuit Court allowing for the continued sale of unregulated, untested, and intoxicating hemp-derived products,” William Tilburg, director of the Maryland Cannabis Administration, said in a statement.

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.

State officials have said the new law is aimed at protecting consumers from unregulated and potentially dangerous products. 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 and animal 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).

No testing, no standards

Maryland officials said Wilson’s injunction 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.

State officials said they continue to seek dismissal of the lawsuit, but in the meantime, the judge’s temporary ruling will keep afloat – at least temporarily – some hemp retailers who said the law was killing their business, Nevin Young, the plaintiffs’ attorney, told The Washington Post.

Changes expected

Recent court rulings in Arkansas and Texas also gave delta-8 THC producers hope, but the long-term future for THC products made from hemp is anything but certain.

While those states have protected delta-8 under a strict legal interpretation that highlights a conflict between state and federal laws for hemp, changes expected at the federal level could reverse that, perhaps by the end of the year.

First, the DEA has indicated it intends to change federal drug-control laws to ban highly concentrated synthetic THC products. The drug agency said in February that the products do not meet the federal definition of hemp and are therefore controlled substances. Also the 2023 Farm Bill, now being debated, is likely to draw a more narrow definition of hemp that excludes such products. The measure is expected to be passed at the end of the year.

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