Illinois state representative La Shawn Ford proposes a 21 and under ban

The ambiguous status quo of Delta 8 cannabis will continue for the foreseeable future as federal lawmakers hint that this year’s scheduled hemp updates to the landmark 2018 Farm Bill may not roll out until next year

For those scoring at home, Delta 8 is an intoxicating extraction of federally legal hemp that is increasingly sold in head shops, gas stations and standalone retail locations. While banned in multiple states, its ubiquity in Illinois and other markets causes consternation for state-licensed and heavily regulated cannabis operators who grow, manufacture and sell unmodified versions of the plant that remain federally illegal. 

From a compliance perspective, there exists no level playing field between licensed cannabis operators and synthetic pot purveyors who don’t have to adhere to testing, training and security requirements (while also gladly accepting American Express). 

Last week, Illinois state representative La Shawn Ford introduced House Bill 4193 that would ban the sale of Delta 8 and other intoxicating derivatives of the hemp plant to anyone under the age of 21. While this is a necessary course of action, a 21 and under ban by itself is not a sufficient solution to this pervading issue. 

“Regulations take time,” said Ford, adding that “this is an emergency move to stop minors from indulging in intoxicating drugs. There is a contingent in the cannabis space who would like to see an outright ban. A ban would be a violation of free enterprise that would cut out revenue from the market.” 

Ford said regulating cannabis similarly to alcohol, where in many states high alcohol spirits are sold separately from beer and wine, is a model to replicate that would allow both licensed THC operators and Delta 8 cannabis purveyors to each sell to distinct markets.

“We have to govern how much potency Delta 8 has,” he said, adding as a hypothetical that Delta 8 could be regulated to be sold at half the potency of what is available in a licensed dispensary.

Examples of manufactured THCa strains available for anyone to purchase

While the mechanics of how to administer such a policy are unclear, executives from licensed cannabis operators say the only way to achieve true parity and ease public health concerns is to require Delta 8 manufacturers and sellers to adhere to the same requirements they face.

“If these operators want to grow and sell cannabis, our state has a system of licensing for that activity,” said Jeremy Unruh ofPharmaCann. “Before we sanction the synthetic manufacturing of cannabinoids, we should know more.”

Added Jason Erkes of Cresco, “this is about public safety – we have a law in Illinois to regulate the sale of THC that was thoughtfully crafted by the legislature and includes 600 pages of rules ensuring safety – there is no need to provide an avenue for people to get around that law when there are still 200+ social equity licensees that followed that process trying to get open.” 

Illinois lawmakers convene next week for the second week of a veto session. Will there be any progress on this issue in the Land of Lincoln (among other states) ahead of potential federal regulation? 

Stay tuned. 

What’s the difference between Delta 8 and naturally-derived THC? 

This explainer from Grown In’s Marcy Alspach will get you up to speed.

Acclaimed attorney David Boies goes to the mat for Marijuana 

The judicial branch of government is the next frontier for cannabis normalization. 

While legislative efforts to pass SAFER Banking appear to be in limbo with anti-pot Speaker Mike Johnson presiding over the U.S. House of representatives, a lawsuit in Massachusetts by high-profile attorney David Boies hopes to free cannabis commerce via the courts. 

Boies, who has taken down the likes of Microsoft, Harvey Weinstein and Theranos (while finding himself on the losing end of Bush V. Gore), last week filed a lawsuit trying to unpack the inconsistencies between the Federal Controlled Substances Act (which criminalized cannabis) and the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution). 

“It seemed like an important states’ rights and constitutional question, a civil-rights and individual-liberty question,” Boies explained to Bloomberg, “and we knew people for whom access to legal medical marijuana was vital to their well-being.”

Verano Holdings is a plaintiff in the case, which also includes participation from Ascend Wellness Holdings, Green Thumb Industries, TerrAscend, Eminence Capital and Poseidon Investment Management as “foundational supporters” according to a press release. 

Participate in the commercial cannabis conversation 

On November 16, Grown In along with our friends at 1871 and Cannabis Innovation Lab invites you to participate in one of several concurrent in-person and virtual small group conversations focused on normalizing and commercializing the cannabis sector.

Register for Cannabis Innovation Lab Community Kick-Off that will take place between 2pm and 6pm Central Standard Time on November 16. Part of that program will include facilitated small group conversations focused on capital options and growth in our ascending industry. 

We are convening a mix of established cannabis operators, investors, new licensees, government officials and canna-curious corporations and nonprofits to be part of the conversation. This is also a great networking opportunity for those professionally committed to cannabis. 

Avatar photo

Brad Spirrison is a journalist, serial entrepreneur and media ecologist. He lives in Chicago with his son. Interests include music, meditation and Miles Davis.