Louisiana judge dismisses Hemp lawsuit, but products remain protected with TRO

Louisiana judge dismisses Hemp lawsuit, but products remain protected with TRO

A Louisiana district judge Wednesday dismissed one lawsuit seeking to protect adult consumable hemp products that can create a "high".

But a temporary restraining order from a second lawsuit remains in place that prevents regulators from removing them from retailers' shelves for now.

The legal battles over hemp come as lawmakers, regulators and entrepreneurs in the exploding industry grapple with what consumable hemp products from gummies to inhalables containing THC should be legal and how they can be packaged and sold, especially in relation to serving sizes.

THC is the chemical that creates a high or euphoria and is often credited with helping manage pain, stress and insomnia, among other conditions. Hemp's THC levels are typically lower than in its cannabis-cousin marijuana.

Baton Rouge District Judge Ronald Johnson agreed with Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control attorneys that hemp manufacturer 318 LABZ and wholesaler and retailer STRSW8 Cannabis must seek relief in a hearing with its regulator before pursuing its case in state court.

ATC Commissioner Ernest Legier said he will schedule a hearing, but he prefers to wait until after the two-month Legislative Session that begins April 10, where he believes lawmakers will change and clarify current laws.

During the recent House hearings, the top attorney for the state health agency said it has mistakenly approved at least 230 hemp consumable products that should be illegal.

"I believe it's in the best interest to all involved to see what the legislative intent will be," Legier said after Wednesday's hearing.

Legier would be the administrative judge for any such hearing.

Attorneys for STRSW8 Cannabis, owned by Jason Garsee, said they expect to appeal Johnson's ruling as well as schedule an administrative hearing with Legier. Garsee is also president of the Gulf South Hemp Association.

Meanwhile, Legier said his agency will comply with the temporary restraining order issued in a separate case this month by Baton Rouge District Judge Trudy White.

White scheduled another hearing on April 6, but she is stepping down from the bench April 1, leaving that schedule in limbo until the Louisiana Supreme Court appoints an interim replacement.

Garsee's attorneys said an advisory issued by the ATC threatening future "aggressive enforcement" in removing what the agency believes are illegal products and potentially issuing citations or revoking permits has frozen his business.

"We're here because the ATC is driving us out of business," attorney Stephen Gele' said.

Louisiana law limits THC levels in hemp products like edible gummies, chocolate bars, cookies and beverages to 8 milligrams per serving, but manufacturers often stack multiple servings into a single package, as do other makers of other products like soft drinks, candy and food items.

The House Health and Welfare Committee has conducted two oversight hearings this year to debate a proposed emergency rule by the Louisiana Department of Health that would modify packaging requirements, among other product aspects. Lawmakers on the committee have twice postponed action on the rule.

Region: Louisiana

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