Today, Senator Declan O’Scanlon introduced legislation to create a regulatory framework to address the growing problem of psychoactive hemp derived products being sold in New Jersey.
“Right now, there are unregulated, psychoactive hemp-derived products being sold with ZERO product safety or marketing standards in our communities and all over the country,” said O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth). “You can get this stuff online, at the gas station, the pharmacy, bodega–it’s everywhere now. I’ve been tracking this issue since 2019 when I first heard of the problem, and I sincerely hoped that Congress or the courts would resolve this. They haven’t, but in their defense, they’ve dealt with a lot since 2019.”
O’Scanlon was referring to issues arising from the Federal 2018 Farm Bill. This bill, now law and set to expire in 2023, has a loophole and conflict in Federal law that is creating an unprecedented and complicated public health issue for States.
The “Farm Bill” was, in part, intended to set up the interstate commerce of hemp and hemp derived products. Hemp is a type of cannabis that only contains .3% Delta 9 THC; the psychoactive substance that’s normally associated with giving people a high from consuming cannabis. Through chemical processes other psychoactive substances, more commonly known as cannabis isolates, can be derived, or converted from hemp extract. Delta 8 THC; a substance 50% as potent as Delta 9 THC, is the most prominent of these cannabis isolates.
New Jersey currently has no State regulator with the authority to create standards for psychoactive hemp-derived products and protect consumers. O’Scanlon’s bill would give New Jersey’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) the authority to regulate and enforce these substances, just as they currently do with the adult-use market.
“This is the bathtub gin of the cannabis space, it impairs people, it’s a growing problem, and it’s reckless to do nothing about it. These substances are not made by hemp farmers but rather by clever chemists essentially reverse engineering and synthesizing these compounds. Lots of New Jersey businesses have invested in these products, they may very well have therapeutic value, but not recognizing the public safety concerns is irresponsible as legislators and local elected officials. Ideally, the Feds would resolve this in the 2023 Farm Bill, but I am not holding my breath.” O’Scanlon went on to explain the complexity of the problem.
“It’s very possible for an individual to consume enough of a hemp-derived edible as a regulated, adult-use edible that would result in the same potency. However, one of these edibles will have safety standards, the other will not. One of these edibles will come from a State licensed facility, the other will not. To make matters more complicated, there are a lot more isolates than just Delta 8, so an outright ban isn’t viable. You can legally sell this stuff to a kid with cartoonish marketing, that’s not right and we wouldn’t stand by and allow that for any other product.”
There have been multiple reports from other states highlighting injuries and even deaths from the consumption of hemp derived products. Major trade associations in the adult use and medical cannabis space have begged for reforms to no success. In New Jersey, some municipalities, notably Jersey City and Beach Haven, have begun to attempt regulating the sale of these substances on their own.
“We need to pump the breaks before more people get hurt. We can’t improve what we don’t measure and this bill gives us that ability to measure and appropriately regulate. It is a common sense starting point for a discussion on a complex and regularly misunderstood problem. The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission is well versed in the subject but lacks any legal authority to do anything about the issue. This legislation would set standards and empower them to create a framework for any mind altering hemp derived product, give the state some enforcement power, and let us go after the bad actors,” O’Scanlon concluded.