Up until now, intoxicating hemp-derived products were freely available in Kentucky under the 2018 Farm Bill, but that will soon change. On March 23, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear signed a bill to regulate hemp-derived delta-8 THC products.
House Bill 544 mandates that only adults 21 and over can buy products containing delta-8 THC—a hemp-derived compound frequently marketed as psychoactive—beginning on August 1.
Per the bill, the state will regulate “any product containing delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol or any other hemp-derived substance identified by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services as having intoxicating effects on consumers.” This means that the sale, gift, or other transfer of possession of delta-8 THC will be regulated like cannabis.
Beshear signed an executive order last year to regulate delta-8 THC and similar products, but that only affected the packaging and labeling of products.
“We did our best in an executive order, but we couldn’t do many things in that executive order that you can via legislation,” Beshear said in a press conference. “So, this really good bill codifies the executive order into law, but it does a lot else in establishing a regulatory structure.”
Kentucky’s own Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell supported the 2018 Farm Bill to assist the state’s large number of hemp farmers. But a legal loophole unexpectedly opened the door for delta-8 THC products.
“We want Kentuckians to have access to the resources they need for relief,” Beshear said. “We want to make sure they can do that safely, and this bill is a good first step.”
The Courier-Journal ran a series of stories about the explosion of the delta-8 THC products following the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. Some hemp-derived products are not cleared as safe.
The bill was approved by the Senate 36-0, with one abstention, and the House 97-0, with three abstentions. It directs the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to “immediately begin the process of regulating delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol and any other hemp-derived substances.”
There are some legitimate reasons to question certain hemp-derived products. Supporters of bills to regulate such items come from inside and outside the hemp market.
Cal NORML Director Dale Gieringer told High Times that consumers should heed the warnings of some of these products. While delta-8 THC that is correctly extracted may not be the biggest worry—other compounds could be notably risky, such as THC-O acetate. THC-O acetate is processed more than typical hemp-derived compounds. Gieringer added that delta-8 THC isn’t his primary concern, given there is slightly more known about the compound, but it’s contaminants and other new cannabinoids he’s most worried about, mostly due to the unknowns: THCP, THCjd. THC-H, THC-B, HHC, and delta-10 THC.
The Journal of Medical Toxicology published a story on Dec. 12, 2022, as a team of researchers led by Neal L. Benowitz discovered a link between THC-O acetate and significant danger to the lungs. THC-O acetate shares structural similarities with vitamin-E acetate—an additive that becomes dangerous to the lungs when converted by heat.
Some hemp companies are actually applauding the bill.
“I actually think there should be more regulation of the products of delta-8 that are being distributed out there,” Barhorst told the Courier-Journal in February. “I think some of the products … should definitely be FDA approved, so the FDA can actually qualify them.”
The bill directs the Kentucky Cabinet to roll out the regulations by Aug. 1.