A draft bill aimed at addressing concerns over the use of delta-8 cannabis products would end up plowing under the entire Wyoming hemp industry.
In its current form, the bill would ban “hemp with any detectable amount of natural or synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), as well as any production of hemp for human consumption.”
Delta-9 THC is the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
Because legal hemp in Wyoming has as much as 0.3% THC, the proposal has Wyoming’s hemp industry concerned.
When people began learning about the draft bill, “my phone was blowing up,” Justin Loeffler, CEO and founder of the Wyoming Hemp Co., told Cowboy State Daily.
The draft bill will be considered in the Joint Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, told Cowboy State Daily that the bill was a result of concerns over minors using delta-8 products.
Delta-8 THC, unlike its stonier cousin delta-9 THC, does not work in the brain quite as effectively to produce intoxication. Delta-8 products are unregulated and are synthetic derivatives from hemp containing 0.3% of delta-9 THC.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA have issued health advisories about delta-8 after receiving hundreds of reports of adverse reactions, including hallucinations, vomiting, tremors, anxiety, dizziness, confusion and loss of consciousness.
Six Cody High School students last year got sick from delta-8 products and had to go to the emergency room.
In the last legislative session earlier this year, a bill sponsored by Rep. Sandy Newsome, R-Cody, sought to prohibit sales of the products to people under 21, but it died in committee.
The Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigations testified before a Joint Judiciary Committee hearing in April that law enforcement doesn’t have the ability to measure the THC content in delta-8 edible and smokeable products, which makes enforcement difficult.
“That was only anecdotal, but it was concerning,” Landen said.
Loeffler said he understood why legislators are concerned about the delta-8 products, which are exploiting a loophole in the law.
“We don’t know what’s in that garbage,” Loeffler said. “We don't need that shit in Wyoming.”
However, he said the draft bill aims to attack trace amounts of THC in hemp, which make it unusable as a smokable material to get high.
“If we’re talking about trace amounts of things, we need to take all Teflon pans off the shelf, because everybody has Teflon in their bodies, and that causes cancer,” Loeffler said.
As is stated in toxicology circles, “the dose makes the poison.” This means that just because something is potentially harmful at certain quantities doesn’t mean it’s harmful in any quantity.
He said the hemp industry in Wyoming is a group of serious agricultural specialists looking to create a viable industry, and they don’t want to be associated with synthetic products that are used to get people high.
“They don’t want a Colorado mentality in Wyoming,” Loeffler said.
Landon said that the legislation that made hemp legal in Wyoming followed federal legislation, and Wyoming’s laws are based on federal guidelines.
The law was meant to permit hemp for textile products, he said. However, another type of industry has sprouted.
“We’ve had a proliferation of the kinds of businesses that sell lots of different products,” Landen said.
Legislators aren’t sure about all those products — what’s in them, if they’re being sold to minors, or what their effects are, he said. The draft bill is only meant to begin a policy discussion on those questions.
The committee, however, isn’t trying to get rid of the hemp industry, he said.
The draft bill will get discussed and possibly amended in committee, and it may not ever get heard in the 2024 legislative session.
“We’ll just have to see,” Landen said.
Go Back To Colorado
The committee also will discuss a second draft bill aimed more precisely at delta-8 to include it in Schedule I, which would put it in the same class as methamphetamine and heroin.
Loeffler said he’s not particularly concerned about the draft bill that would effectively ban hemp. The Legislature has been very accommodating of the state’s hemp industry and willing to work with it to address any concerns. He doesn’t expect lawmakers will ban hemp.
“We’re still in the beginning phases of this entire industry, and we still have the ability to steer the boat in the right direction,” Loeffler said.
He said there are serious people trying to create jobs from producing a new crop, which will benefit Wyoming communities.
“The other people? They can go back to Colorado,” Loeffler said.
Kevin Killough can be reached at Kevin@cowboystatedaily.com.