State Attorneys General Ask Congress To Regulate Intoxicating Hemp Products


Nearly two dozen attorneys general from across the country wrote a letter to congressional leaders this week, urging them to enact legislation to federally regulate intoxicating hemp products. In the letter, the top law enforcement official from 21 states wrote that the legalization of hemp with the 2018 Farm Bill has resulted in “the proliferation of intoxicating hemp products across the nation and challenges to the ability for states and localities to respond to the resulting health and safety crisis.”

The letter, dated March 20, was addressed to the committee chair and ranking minority members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry and the House Committee on Agriculture. The correspondence was led by Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita and Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin, both Republicans, and co-signed by the attorneys general of 19 additional states, including Democrats and Republicans.

In their letter, the state officials call on the leaders in Congress “to address the glaring vagueness created in the 2018 Farm Bill.” The legislation has led to the proliferation of products containing psychoactive novel and minor cannabinoids that can be derived from hemp, including delta 8 THC, THCA, HHC and others.

“The reality is that this law has unleashed on our states a flood of products that are nothing less than a more potent form of cannabis, often in candy form that is made attractive to youth and children — with staggering levels of potency, no regulation, no oversight, and a limited capability for our offices to rein them in,” reads the letter.

To address the issue, regulators and lawmakers in many states across the country are seeking ways to stem the tide of unregulated intoxicating hemp products, arguing that they pose a health risk, particularly to young people. Advocates for tighter controls on intoxicating hemp products in states with legal weed note they pose a competitive threat to licensed marijuana businesses, which face the high costs and taxes often associated with the regulated pot industry.

Regulating intoxicating hemp products has been resisted by some businesses and industry advocates. Some companies marketing intoxicating hemp products have filed lawsuits to block new regulations, arguing that the 2018 Farm Bill specifically legalizes hemp-derived cannabinoids other than delta-9 THC.

These legal actions have produced mixed results. In Arkansas, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction in September that bars the implementation of a law to ban intoxicating hemp products. 

“These inconsistent court rulings are part of the reason I have urged Congress to step in and create consistency across the nation to protect our children from these dangerous drugs,” Griffin said in an email to Politico.

California Attorney General Bonta, one of the attorneys general who signed the letter to congressional leaders, said that intoxicating hemp products constitute a health risk for young people.

“Our children deserve better,” Bonta said in a statement. “The 2018 Farm Bill, however well-intentioned, created a loophole that has led to the proliferation of products, often containing synthesized cannabinoids, that are more intoxicating than legal and regulated cannabis products. These products often take the form of candy and are designed to appeal to young people and children. California prohibits intoxicating cannabinoids in hemp products, whether naturally derived or synthetic. The California Department of Justice will continue to protect the legitimate businesses who are operating responsibly in this space.”

The letter calls on the leaders of the congressional agricultural committees to take action to regulate intoxicating hemp products by redefining hemp in the next farm bill, which is currently being debated in Congress. The legislation, which guides policy on a wide range of issues related to agriculture, is updated every five years, although progress on last year’s anticipated renewal of the legislation was delayed to this year.

“The reason Congress needs to act is that its definition of industrial hemp is the original source of the problem and the confusion that has sprung up around what is allowed and what’s not allowed under state and federal law,” Indiana Solicitor General James Barta said in an interview with Politico.



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