Kentucky Lawmakers Send Delta-8 THC Regulation Bill To Governor’s Desk

“The Kentucky hemp program is a staple for our agricultural community, but the selling and usage of unregulated THC is a danger to every Kentuckian who may use it.”

By Melissa Patrick, Kentucky Health News

In response to a court decision that deemed products containing delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol to be legal, a bill to regulate products with the substance has passed both houses of the General Assembly without dissent and has gone to Gov. Andy Beshear (D) for final action.

“The Kentucky hemp program is a staple for our agricultural community, but the selling and usage of unregulated THC is a danger to every Kentuckian who may use it,” Rep. Rebecca Raymer, R-Morgantown, the bill’s sponsor, said in a news release. “These products have no standards for production. If someone were to purchase delta-8, they have no way of determining if it is safe. This measure will both protect our consumers and enhance the industry.”

According to WebMD, delta-8 THC is a naturally occurring chemical compound called a cannabinoid that’s found in small traces in hemp and marijuana plants. Its chemical structure is similar to that of delta-9 THC, the main psychoactive compound found in marijuana. delta-8 causes a milder high than delta-9. It can generally be purchased anywhere that sells CBD products, including gas stations, convenience stores and vape shops.

House Bill 544, sponsored by Raymer, directs the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to begin the process of regulating delta-8 THC and any other hemp-derived substances by August 1.

The bill also makes it illegal for people under 21 to purchase delta-8 THC products, requires retailers to keep the products behind a counter, and sets guidelines for labeling. It establishes a testing and approval process that products must clear before they can be sold or distributed in the state.

“These are just our recommendations of what we think should be included in it, and I think the hemp industry would like to be at the table to come up with the final recommendations of maybe what the testing and the thresholds would look like,” Raymer told a House committee March 9.

Kentucky Hemp Association President Katie Moyer and Commonwealth Extracts CEO John Taylor endorsed the bill at the same committee meeting.

Taylor said, “Every valid actor wants these types of regulations. It gets rid of the bad actors that make it hard to compete. It costs a lot of money to do the right thing, and when we have people making things in bathrooms and basements and barns it really makes it very hard to compete on a legitimate level.”

The Senate changed the bill to say that if a Kentucky producer is shipping a delta-8 THC product to a state with testing requirements, the producer can defer to that state’s requirements, but if shipping to a state with no testing requirements, they should abide by Kentucky’s regulations. The House agreed.

Beshear is expected to sign the bill. He issued an executive order in November 2022 directing the health cabinet to regulate delta-8 THC following the court ruling in Boone County last year. His order was coupled with one using his pardon power to allow people with certain medical conditions and a doctor’s certificate to possess up to 8 ounces of cannabis bought legally in another state.

This story was first published by Kentucky Health News, an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. 

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Photo courtesy of Kimberly Lawson.

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