Lawmakers want to ban delta-8 but not the Hemp industry
Tuesday’s discussion of bill drafts related to controlled substance law revisions in Wyoming showed state lawmakers never intended to shut down the hemp industry.
Rather, they seek to criminalize cannabis products containing synthetic delta-8.
Legislators on the Joint Judiciary Committee had a bill drafted that classifies delta-8 as a Schedule I drug after an April report from the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation showed increased hospitalizations of teens consuming the substance. During an April committee meeting, DCI officials told legislators law enforcement struggles to test levels of delta-8 in hemp products.
This bill was one of three controlled substance revisions considered Tuesday by committee members during their interim meeting in Casper.
Bill draft 129, another of the three bills, created tighter restrictions on hemp products produced and sold in the state of Wyoming, which threatened to shut down CBD businesses and upend the state’s hemp industry.
These first two bills caught the eyes of many Wyomingites who regularly consume and rely on CBD products, not to mention the business owners who feared they would have to permanently close their doors.
It turns out, however, that the legislators’ intent was never to shut down Wyoming’s hemp industry, but rather to create a statute that would eliminate any hemp product laced with synthetic delta-8.
“The most important part of this, besides figuring out how we’re going to define (delta-8), is that we protect our emerging hemp industry,” said Sen. Ed Cooper, R-Ten Sleep. “I want to be on the record of saying how important the hemp industry can be to Wyoming.”
DCI representatives testified before legislators on Tuesday that delta-8 naturally occurs in small quantities in hemp. The issue was that delta-8 could be “synthetically modified” to create a psychoactive effect similar to THC, but crime labs could not scientifically prove whether the delta-8 was natural or synthetically modified.
“The problem is the crime lab can’t test the difference,” said Kellsie Singleton, senior assistant attorney general. “While most delta-8 we see is likely through the synthetic process, the crime lab can’t say that in court.”
The bill, as written, did not “rectify the problem,” Singleton said, as it prohibited any quantity of delta-8 without distinction between whether it was natural or synthetic. The isomerization, or chemical modification of delta-8, was what DCI is looking to criminalize.
Delta-8 THC was already listed under Schedule I as delta-6 THC, which Sarah Barrett with the Wyoming State Crime Lab said was “the exact same compound.”
The problem with the hemp statute under Schedule I was that it exempted naturally occurring cannabinoids, Barrett said.
“Because it naturally occurs in very low levels, the argument is made then that the delta-8 is derived from hemp,” Barrett said. “Well, they’re applying a chemical process to do that, which would be synthetic. But we can’t prove that.”
Rep. Ember Oakley, R-Riverton, suggested the bill be amended to define delta-8 by percentage amount and criminalize any amount over 0.3%.
“All we need to do for a fix is to take out a reference to how it’s created because the percentage would speak for itself,” Oakley said.
Other legislators on the committee, such as Rep. Jeremy Haroldson, R-Wheatland, agreed it was critical to narrow the bill’s wording to exclude a certain substance (in this case, synthetic delta-8) without destroying the entire hemp industry.
“What we’re talking about is high school students that are going to hospitals in ambulances, that’s why we’re here today,” Haroldson said. “We’re not here to try to take people’s CBD away from them.”
Due to the complexities brought up by DCI in properly defining synthetic delta-8, committee members voted to combine all three bill drafts into a single bill for consideration at the committee’s next meeting in November.
“The naturally occurring (delta-8) is going to be present in our hemp products,” said co-chairman Rep. Art Washut, R-Casper. “If we say it is prohibited to have naturally occurring or synthesized products, then we endanger our hemp production.”