A bill that would ban Delta-8 THC in Arkansas will also ban CBD, the non-psychoactive hemp product used to treat a variety of ailments, according to advocates that fear the state hemp industry is in danger.
Senate Bill 358, which would ban Delta-8 and some other hemp-derived products, passed the Senate last week by a vote of 33-1, with one member voting present. As the bill heads next to the House Rules Committee tomorrow at noon, some people in the industry say the bill has put CBD on the chopping block.
Sponsored by Rep. Tyler Dees (R-Siloam Springs), the bill targets hemp-derived products that include Delta-8, Delta-9, Delta-10 and other versions of psychoactive elements of hemp plants. The bill defines hemp-derived products as those including “all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids” and a litany of other things related to hemp.
People who work in the industry say that definition would include non-psychoactive hemp derivatives such as CBD, CBN and CBG that are sold in tobacco shops, natural food stores, CBD stores and more. The products are also found in medical marijuana products sold in the state’s dispensaries.
“The bill is deceptive,” said Mike Kazckowski, who owns businesses that work with CBD and other cannabinoids. “It made it sound like it was for children and for Delta-8, but the fact of the matter is it is to wipe out anything hemp in the state of Arkansas.”
At a Senate committee meeting on March 15, Dees spoke about the danger Delta-8 products present, especially to children. Existing in an unregulated gray area, Delta-8 products are sold in a variety of stores, from gas stations to CBD stores, and there are no age restrictions for purchase. Delta-8 products are not part of the state medical marijuana program and are not sold in dispensaries.
Attorney Amy Martin, whose family owns The Greenery dispensary in Fort Smith, placed a pile of Delta-8 products on the Senate committee table when the committee considered the bill earlier this month. The products were packaged in brightly colored packaging and in dosage amounts that would not be permitted under the medical marijuana program.
Business owners told the committee that they oppose banning the Delta-8 products that they said are used by some people who don’t have medical marijuana cards. They said passing the bill would jeopardize their businesses. One owner said her business would close within two days of the bill’s passage.
On Monday, a Vapor Maven billboard advertising Delta-8 and other similar hemp-based gummies could be seen on Highway 67 near Beebe. Vapor Maven is a national chain of vape stores that has more than 15 locations in Arkansas, including stores in Beebe, Searcy, Jonesboro, Fort Smith, Mountain Home and Harrison.
The potential ban of CBD did not come up during the committee’s discussion of the bill.
CBD and Delta-8
The bill would also prohibit combining hemp products with non-hemp products, meaning that CBD couldn’t be combined with a coconut oil or shea butter in a topical application, according to Dr. Brian Nichol, a North Little Rock anesthesiologist who uses cannabis and hemp products to treat patients.
The bill also prohibits anyone from giving hemp-derived products to minors, meaning children would not be allowed to use CBD, he said. Nichol said he has used CBD to treat seizures, autistic spectral disorders and attention deficit disorder in young patients.
“This will hurt a big portion of the patient population,” he said.
Nichol said he favored some regulation of the industry, such as prohibiting packaging that appeals to children, requiring child-proof packaging and requiring lab testing. Nichol said he also favors instituting an age requirement for purchase, although he added that he knows of many stores that require customers to be at least 18 years of age to purchase the products even though they are not required by law to do so.
Nichol said Delta-8 is less intoxicating than the marijuana that would be purchased in a dispensary, which he said is useful for treating patients who don’t want to feel high. It’s also better at turning off nausea and vomiting symptoms than traditional marijuana, also known as Delta-9, he said.
Hemp was legalized when the U.S. Congress passed the Farm Bill in 2018. That bill defined hemp as cannabis plants with .3% THC or less and allowed states to pass programs to regulate hemp production.
SB358 defines hemp as cannabis plants with .1% THC, which Nichol says will be difficult for hemp manufacturers to achieve.
“It’s going to be almost impossible to do that,” he said.
Erin Gray, owner of Healing Hemp of Arkansas, said he also supports regulation, but already enforces an age restriction in her store, doesn’t sell products with packaging enticing to children and has a certification of analysis for every product. Gray said she does not support SB358, which she said has been promoted by “fear-mongering” about Delta-8 products when the bill goes much farther.
The bill would prevent her from selling full-spectrum products that contain up to .3% THC and from selling products mixed with other things.
“It’s basically going to wipe out the hemp industry in Arkansas if it passes as-is if they choose to enforce those regulations,” she said.
She said the bill would “absolutely” put people out of business.
Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an advocacy group active in anti-marijuana legislation, has advocated for passage of a ban on Delta-8 with full-page ads in the Sunday edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette the last two weeks.
The ads say “Drug dealers figured out a loophole around our laws on marijuana and it’s called Delta-8, a synthetic psychoactive. Let Governor Sanders and your legislators know that you want to BAN Delta-8 and make Arkansas the safest place to raise a family.”
A digital billboard truck parked near the state Capitol Monday showed similar ads, stating “Arkansas, our children are prey . . . BAN Delta-8 THC and help make Arkansas the SAFEST place in America to live and raise a family.”
The back of the billboard truck showed an image from a TV report in Texarkana about two children who died from using “synthetic marijuana.” The report is about an incident in Texarkana, Texas, that involved K2, not Delta-8 or other cannabis derivatives. The federal Drug Enforcement Agency describes K2 as plant material that is sprayed with a psychoactive compound.
Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which recently opened an Arkansas office, was active in the campaign to defeat the Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment last year.