Mar 11, 2024 - News

Legal cannabis sellers want Texas CBD market regulated

Small white bottles next to a sign that says Delta 8 THC 450mg

Delta-8 THC for sale at bee Hippy Hemp Dispensary, which was raided by Garland police last year. Photo: Sergio Flores for the Washington Post via Getty Images

The CEO of Texas' largest legal medical marijuana dispensary is calling on Gov. Greg Abbott and state legislators to regulate the sale of hemp-derived CBD products, including Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC.

Why it matters: Nico Richardson, CEO of Texas Original, says the state's unregulated hemp market has created a public health crisis, citing a spike in drug-related offenses in Texas schools and the abundance of young patients involved in calls to the Texas Poison Center Network.

Context: Texas has a relatively small and intensely regulated Compassionate Use program that allows approved doctors to legally prescribe low-levels of THC — the main psychoactive component in marijuana that gets users high — to treat conditions like cancer, PTSD and epilepsy.

  • But vape stores and gas stations all over the state sell unregulated CBD products and CBD-derived THC products known as Delta-8 and Delta-9, in the form of gummies and flower that looks similar to traditional marijuana.
  • The federal Food and Drug Administration has warned that some manufacturers may use unsafe chemicals to convert CBD into Delta-8 — and that children might be particularly vulnerable to the effects.

Zoom out: Delta-8 is banned in 17 states, according to the National Cannabis Industry Association.

The big picture: Richardson says third-party testing has demonstrated that hemp flower products in Texas being sold to minors test well above the legal limit for THC and include potentially harmful pesticides and microbial contaminants.

Flashback: In 2020, Houston-based DEA agent Anthony Armour failed a federal drug test after using CBD oil for pain treatment, which, unbeknownst to Armour, had more than the legal limit of THC.

  • He sued the Department of Justice and got his job back with back pay, but the case demonstrates the legal morass created by the lack of regulations.

What they're saying: "It is long past time for our governor and state Legislature to work together to create a safe and effective regulatory framework for hemp products," Richardson tells Axios.

  • "If the Texas Legislature wants to legalize recreational marijuana, they should pass legislation to that effect and develop a regulatory framework to keep these products from kids. What they shouldn't do is turn a blind eye to an unregulated marijuana market that lacks crucial age minimums and consumer protections that exist in other states."

The intrigue: The legal ambiguity hasn't stopped police from raiding smoke shops in Garland, Little Elm and Killeen. Most police testing procedures can't differentiate between illegal THC and legal Delta-8 THC.

  • If convicted of possessing high-concentration THC — like you might find in a vape pen — Texans can face felony charges, jail time and fines up to $10,000.

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