May 30, 2024 - News

Illinois passes on banning synthetic weed

Illustration of a green drink in a glass with a marijuana leaf on the rim

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Illinois General Assembly once again debated banning hemp-derived THC products and cafes but, in the end, declined to act.

Why it matters: The products are currently unregulated, and a ban could have hurt cannabis shops and the burgeoning THC seltzer business, which uses THC from hemp.

Context: Hemp and marijuana are different types of cannabis. Both have the active ingredient THC, the compound that gets users high. But hemp has much less THC than marijuana.

  • Hemp-derived THC is legal because of a loophole in the 2018 Farm Bill.

The big picture: The Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill that would have restricted the hemp products, but even with support from some lawmakers in the House, Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch did not call the bill for a vote in the spring session.

  • Lawmakers and cannabis industry representatives have long complained about the unregulated THC products, including synthetic marijuana like Delta-8 and Delta-9, saying it can be more potent than the label advertises, causing danger to customers.

What they're saying: "We are disappointed the House failed to pass needed reforms to our state's cannabis laws and will continue to allow synthetic hemp products that are sickening children and adults to be sold with no oversight," Cannabis Business Association's Tiffany Chappell Ingram said in a statement.

The other side: "We are very pleased with the IL legislature on holding on voting to ban hemp-derived THC cafes," Blazed Bakery co-owner Eric Harper tells Axios. He currently operates a hemp-derived THC bakery in Northbrook, but is opening a new location in Logan Square this weekend.

  • "The current bill was based on flawed science, disregarded job opportunities and equity within a the mature hemp industry in Illinois. We are hopeful that IL legislators will work with the Hemp industry to make sure both Hemp and Cannabis industries can operate side by side."

The intrigue: The bill wouldn't have punished only synthetic weed producers, but craft brewers as well. Many Chicago companies have helped the THC drink industry grow nationwide. Drinks are now on shelves at selected Chicago liquor stores.

  • "I am looking forward to working with the state legislature to formulate a more socially equitable and fair regulatory path as an alternative to the job-killing bills that were proposed," Marz Community Brewing's Ed Marszewski tells Axios.

What we're watching: Congress is working on a new farm bill, which could include an amendment banning hemp-derived THC products. The amendment was introduced by Illinois Rep. Mary Miller.

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