RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)-A newly passed bill could stop the sale of certain CBD products in Virginia starting July 1.
Hemp farmers who fear the future of the industry is at stake are asking Governor Glenn Youngkin for help.
Meanwhile, one lawmaker is calling their claims “categorically wrong” and “misleading.”
In a letter, an advocacy coalition called the U.S. Hemp Roundtable urged Governor Youngkin to veto the legislation and appoint a study group to examine the issue in more depth ahead of the 2023 session.
“If SB 591 is signed into law, the entire Virginia hemp industry, from farmers to processors to sellers, will be faced with new restrictions that no other state has imposed, placing Virginia businesses at a significant competitive disadvantage in what has been a national hemp economy since 2018,” the letter said.
That message was echoed by an online petition with more than 3,600 signatures.
A spokerson for Youngkin said he is reviewing the legislation but he has nothing further to add at this time.
The bipartisan bill expands the legal definition of marijuana in Virginia, in part by setting stricter limits on THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis that causes a high.
Under federal law, hemp must have a concentration of 0.3% THC or lower. This standard has been used to enable the legal sale of hemp-derived CBD products in Virginia and across the country.
Marijuana, which is defined as having more than 0.3% THC, is legal to possess but not to sell in the commonwealth. The timeline for a retail market is now unclear after House Republicans deferred action on a regulatory framework in the 2022 session.
If signed by Youngkin, the legislation would set new caps that could stop the sale of certain CBD products, at least until recreational marijuana sales move forward, according to bill sponsor Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta). The legislation says products can have no more than 0.25 milligram of THC per serving and a maximum of one milligram per package.
Kame Naturals Founder Reed Anderson, a hemp grower and CBD manufacturer based in Goochland, said this would force them to remove existing products from the shelves and replace them with items he believes are less effective when it comes to treating pain and mental health conditions.
“Senate bill 591 essentially puts us out of business,” Anderson said. “You’re hurting farmers. You’re hurting our consumers and people that have found relief from this product. You’re not controlling the product. People can still order it online from any other state and it arrives at their home.”
In an email, Senator Hanger told Anderson that the language of the bill is being evaluated to avoid unintended consequences.
“While SB 591 may have some unintended impacts on some products that are being marketed, the primary target is edibles sold in the form of gummies that are in colors and shapes that appeal to children and unsuspecting adults and a wide variety of edible products commonly marketed as “Delta-8,” Hanger said.
Del. Dawn Adams (D-Chesterfield) disagrees with claims that the bill will destroy Virginia’s CBD industry.
“I one hundred percent do not agree with that sentiment. I think they’re categorically wrong, and it’s misleading to say that,” Adams said.
Adams, a clinician that works in alternative pain management, said she’s heard from medical cannabis patients who got “massively high” unexpectedly after using CBD products.
With limited enforcement in this area, Adams said the legislation is about closing loopholes in federal and state law that are being exploited to sell cannabis products that are mislabelled, intoxicating and unsafe.
“We’re trying to put the genie back in the bottle and we’re trying to do that, not to limit the hemp industry, but as a consumer safety issue,” Adams said.
Adams said those in the hemp industry are overstating the need to have THC in their products for them to be effective and that the complaints are largely profit-driven.
“People are getting value added as the high and when you remove that, which is not necessary for the product, then that value-added feeling goes away and so I imagine profits will go down,” Adams said. “When profits will go back up is when we have regulated cannabis and they can get a license.”
In the meantime, Anderson said these changes, if implemented, will result in the loss of major investments and jobs for farmers.
“A year ago we legalized marijuana. In my view, it’s like we’ve just legalized moonshine and outlawed O’Doul’s,” Anderson said.