RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has proposed changes to legislation meant to crack down on hemp-derived products that get people high, but have been largely unregulated in Virginia.
The identical bills passed by the Virginia General Assembly limit the total amount of THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis that gives users a high, in products to two milligrams per package. The legislation also capped the total THC concentration in each product at 0.3%.
These new proposed rules aim to keep unregulated hemp-derived products such as delta-8 out of gas stations, smoke shops and other businesses in Virginia where they have been sold.
Several health groups and experts came out in support of the bills passed by lawmakers, citing concerns over how some of these hemp-derived synthetic THC products are marketed to resemble common snacks and candy that children eat.
But members of the hemp industry urged Gov. Youngkin (R) to make amendments to the legislation, claiming it would decimate their businesses and lead to unintended consequences for customers, especially those who buy CBD products.
Youngkin, who made reining in the sale of these products a priority, has proposed a substitute bill requiring that hemp products for sale in Virginia have at least 25 times the amount of CBD per package than total THC.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound in cannabis that does not cause a high and is found in items such as food, oils, lotion and personal care products. People use CBD for anxiety, pain relief and other purposes.
“While still not perfect, the governor’s proposed changes dramatically improve the legislation that passed,” Greg Habeeb, a former Republican delegate turned lobbyist who represents the Virginia Cannabis Association, told 8News.
The Virginia Cannabis Association, which is made up of a group of hemp processors and companies, sent a letter to Youngkin on March 6 saying the approved bill “would have the unintended result of eliminating the thriving Virginia hemp industry.”
For the last six weeks, Habeeb said industry members were in discussions with the governor’s office and lawmakers over potential changes to the legislation in an effort to help ensure hemp farmers and processors wouldn’t face dire economic consequences.
Habeeb said Youngkin and others, including those in the office of House Speaker Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), were instrumental in the process and that all of the amendments the cannabis association had sought were adopted by the governor.
The governor’s substitute also removed a provision in the bills requiring hemp manufacturers to include a bittering agent in topical products such as lotions and ointments with CBD in them.
Under Youngkin’s proposed changes, businesses must apply for a regulated hemp product retail facility registration and pay a yearly $1,000 fee for each store where the products would be sold.
Products would need clear labels showing their ingredients, how much is in a single serving, the substance’s THC percentage and how many milligrams of THC are in each package and per serving. Each product must also have a certificate of analysis produced by an independent lab.
Hemp-derived products containing THC would need to be in child-resistant packaging, according to the substitute bill.
Topical hemp products must include a label indicating they are “not intended for human consumption,” with businesses facing a daily $500 fine for violations, unless they are manufactured before July 1, 2023.
Youngkin is also proposing to allow the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services commissioner to have access to stores registered to sell regulated hemp products to check for violations and secure samples for inspection.
The commissioner can deny applications and suspend or revoke registrations. Businesses that violate any of the rules would face a $10,000 fine each day a violation occurs.
Youngkin is also proposing creating the Virginia Industrial Hemp Fund, which will use money collected from the registrations and fines to pay for the costs of carrying out the provisions in the legislation.
The General Assembly will meet on April 12 to consider Youngkin’s amendments to the legislation.