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NJ Hemp Regulation Bill Progresses as Unregulated Market Flourishes

The NJ hemp market has grown into a bonanza that begs for legislation and regulations. The loopholes allowing Delta products have been greatly exploited to sell products that get you high. However, there is a bill to regulate the New Jersey hemp industry.

Hemp delta products are everywhere. They are by no means confined to smoke shops and headshops. They are in gas stations and convenience stores or bodegas across the state.

Delta Product Issues

There are massive loopholes of Delta 8 THC and other hemp-derived cannabinoids. The open market threatens to make a great mockery of the lengthy, expensive, and highly political process to open a licensed New Jersey cannabis company.

There are many loopholes a business doesn’t even need to bother with illegal products. They can sell legal products that get you high.

The 2018 Farm Bill was passed by Congress and signed into law by former President Trump. It legalized industrial hemp, which was supposed to have .03 percent of Delta 9 THC, the chemical or cannabinoid that gets you high in weed. Unfortunately, that percentage is ridiculously small to comply with.

Since cannabis has been federally illegal for so long, it has not been closely studied. So many cannabis industry scientists found many other cannabinoids in cannabis. First, they began making products with Delta 8 THC, a different cannabinoid that can be made through a chemical process with hemp, the industrial non-high form of weed. There are now many cannabinoids that have been identified. Among them are Delta 10-THC, THC-a, THC-O, CBN, and several others.

Hemp-derived Delta-9 THC is another interesting angle companies have exploited. The catch is products must have less than 0.3 percent THC on “a dry weight basis.” So you could put a little more Delta-9 THC oil in a physical product that is dry, like a gummy or pastry. The loophole doesn’t work with beverages or oils because they are not dry.

Labeled products are a good start, but gas station hemp or CBD remains as good as gas station sushi as a rule of thumb. There is a consensus among cannabis industry and policy experts that the labels on most Delta products should not be believed.

They are synthetic products. Thus, it’s different than legacy cannabis flower, which, as a plant is less likely to be harmful.

There are also 21 and over concerns about NJ hemp delta products. Minors could be acquiring such products since there is no law requiring carding. That is likely to create a frenzy of opposition at some point.

Regulating NJ Hemp

The State of New Jersey has yet to address the issue of regulating NJ hemp. Governor Phil Murphy (D) has never said anything publicly about NJ hemp or Delta products. The NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) is still working on authorizing NJ adult-use cultivators and dispensaries.

However, a bill by State Senator Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) imposes regulations on the NJ hemp industry. The bill is S3470, “Requires registration and regulation of certain hemp-derived cannabinoids manufactured and sold in this State.”

It has gained a new sponsor in Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex). State Senator Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex) is co-sponsoring the bill. Both supported the Cannabis Regulatory Enforcement And Marijuana Modernization Act (CREAMMA), which implemented the New Jersey recreational cannabis referendum of 2020.

A companion Assembly has been introduced, too, A5198. It has even more supporters. Herb Conaway (D-Burlington), Annette Quijano (D-Union), and Paul Moriarty (D-Gloucester) are the primary sponsors. Marilyn Piperno (R-Monmouth) and Kim Eulner (R-Monmouth) are co-sponsoring it.

Their bill would require regulation of the industry and NJ hemp delta products by the NJCRC.

Moriarty is also sponsoring A 5440, “Prohibits production and sale of products containing delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol.” He is the only Assembly sponsor. It has no New Jersey State Senate companion bill necessary for passage into law.

Several major national cannabis industry organizations support a federal crackdown on hemp and delta products.

The New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association (NJCTA), the lobbying trade group for New Jersey licensed cannabis companies, has supported a crackdown on their likely competitors for some time.

Other states have their cannabis authorities regulate hemp delta products. In fact, the Connecticut Attorney General launched a lawsuit against hemp delta product companies earlier this year.

Libertarian-minded businesspeople are unlikely to appreciate such regulations and lawsuits.

Feds, DEA Likely to Regulate Hemp

On the national level, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is likely to upend the whole market within the coming months massively. They want all hemp Delta products to be Schedule I narcotics. Those are supposed to be the most dangerous of the drugs scheduled 1 to 5. Feds claim they have no medicinal value. The federal status of marijuana is that of a Schedule I narcotic.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may regulate the national hemp industry and delta products soon as well. It would make sense that they would do so. It has been in the works. They announced last year that hemp-derived CBD should not be marketed as a health product. Many companies have been doing so since there have been many anecdotes that it does have health benefits.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has also voiced concerns.

The foreseeable end was always inevitable. The question was always how long could it last? It is amazing that the feds have taken so long to catch on.

Congress and Delta THC Loopholes

Congress certainly has not acted on Delta issues. The federal government is teetering on the edge due to partisan differences over spending. Thus, they have not taken the initiative to address this.

However, the Farm Bill is supposed to be renewed every four years or so, depending on congressional dysfunction. Thus, it is coming up. But it is a comprehensive bill with many issues like the environment and others.

US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) remains a strong backer of hemp since it is a cash crop in his native Kentucky. Thus, he might defend the industry, warts and all.

As a national industry likely worth billions of dollars, hemp might have some clout to push back against regulation it would not like.

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