Medical marijuana emergency rules in effect as 'analogue' products go unregulated

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The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority continues to stay busy accommodating new licensed businesses, addressing a growing trend of THC "analogs" on dispensary shelves and adapting to new emergency rules now in effect, agency Director Adria Berry said Tuesday.  

The additional rules became active on Monday, with an intention to give the authority more power to act and enforce its own rules while also adding clarifications for operators from how long records must be kept to requirements for packaging of pre-rolled joints. 

Outside of the emergency rules, which are now in the public comment period and on track to become permanent in the next year, the authority has made 30 hires in the past month, filling 12 inspector positions. 

"One of the glaring issues we had was just not getting out and inspecting across the state, that's really the biggest thing we've been hearing," Berry said. 

Berry says in addition to the new hires a renewed focus on inspections and a replacement of the agency's compliance director are driving the agency forward. 

Casey Tidwell places frozen marijuana in a tub inside 1440 Processing in Choctaw.

"We are ramping up because this past year out of 13,000 businesses in 2021, so far we have visited 3,000. So we have work to do," she said.  

Along with the ongoing struggle to monitor the large and growing industry, officials are seeing new chemical compounds that mimic medical marijuana products on the market. 

In October, the authority issued a patient warning that a concentrate product, Platinum OG Sugar, tested positive for THC-O-acetate, a manufactured THC compound that can have consequential side effects when combined with other THC products, according to the authority.  

"It is not a medical marijuana product; it is something that is created using harsh chemicals," Berry said. "It can be made from hemp, or from THC-containing plants, but it is washed in harsh chemicals in order to make it a different product, basically."

Unlike medical marijuana products, which stem from the delta-9 compound in marijuana plants and are regulated by the authority, synthetic products like THC-O, delta-8 and delta-10 are unregulated and outside the authority's purview. 

Medical marijuana products are packaged at 1440 Processing in Choctaw before shipping.

 

The draw of these alternative analogs is the higher potency of THC-O that can be as much as three times stronger than delta-9 products, and the lack of regulation on these products that are not considered medical marijuana, making them available without patient or license restrictions. 

"So, at this time we only have the authority to regulate delta-9. If you look at a product that is created from a hemp plant and chemically processed to be marijuana-like, they can still be sold anywhere that CBD is sold, so they are not regulated right now," Berry said.

Outside of continuing the conversation and legislative studies on the issue, the authority is asking that labs test for these alternative compounds.

 

So we are doubling down on making sure that labs are aware of these analogs and are testing for these analogs in order to keep patients safe across the state," Berry said.

Patients and industry advocates will have the next month to make additional complaints, suggestions and comments on new agency rules in the lead up to the public hearing on the emergency rules at 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 1 in Room 535 at the state Capitol.

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