NJ Delta 8 THC “Intoxicating Hemp” Bills Pass Legislature


NJ Delta 8 THC Intoxicating Hemp bill passes legislative committee in the State House pictured here

Delta 8 THC “intoxicating hemp” regulation bills were rammed through the New Jersey legislature.

(UPDATE 7/1: The bills overwhelmingly passed the Assembly and State Senate.)

They passed it with amendments allowing liquor stores to sell hemp drinks that get you high after stopping and getting proper permission. The legislation mandated that the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NCJRC) grant them a special license. Now, it has to set up new rules and issue a new license, which will likely take months, if not a year, at the very least.

The NJCRC has been planning to allow its own sort of cannabis drink to be sold in dispensaries.

No representative of the NJCRC has testified before the committees that this bill passed. In addition, they refused to comment on the legislation in an email to Heady NJ.

The intoxicating hemp bills have already passed two legislative committees in the NJ Assembly and State Senate.

To become a law, it now must go before a full vote in the Assembly and State Senate before the Governor signs it. Since the legislature adjourns on July 1st for the summer, they seem eager to get this done before going on vacation.

Booze Lobby Invades Cannabis Industry

At a New Jersey Senate Budget Committee hearing, amendments to S 3235, “Regulates production and sale of certain Delta 8 THC intoxicating hemp products,” were explained. They want to require the NJCRC to regulate hemp beverages sold in liquor stores.

So, they are creating something called “Intoxicating Hemp,” like weed or cannabis.

According to the bill, “Intoxicating hemp product” means any product cultivated, derived, or manufactured from hemp … that is sold in this State that has a concentration of total THC greater than 0.5 37 milligrams per serving or 2.5 milligrams per package.

“Intoxicating hemp product” shall not include a cannabinoid product that is not derived from naturally occurring biologically active chemical constituents and shall not include hemp products.”

Furthermore, “Hemp product” shall not mean a cannabinoid product that is not derived from naturally occurring biologically active chemical constituents and shall not mean an intoxicating hemp product.”

They also realized Delta 8 THC is not the only cannabinoid they need to prohibit and developed a long list and again tried to outlaw those they are only vaguely aware of that get you high.

Defending the Licensed NJ Cannabis Industry

At the hearing, noted cannabis lobbyist Bil Caruso liked the bill but not the liquor amendment. He was eager to close the loophole, which has led to a thriving industry.

NJ Delta 8 THC Intoxicating Hemp bill passes legislative committee pictured here

“The Cannabis Regulatory Commission is the body in charge of regulating THC in amounts that are intoxicating,” Caruso said.

He argued it was good legislators allowed towns to block cannabis sales, unlike Delta 8 THC hemp sales.

“This is being sold right now, unregulated, untested, and to children even in liquor stores,” Caruso exclaimed.

“Do the right thing here. Pass the bill in front of you as is. Work on separate legislation to figure out how the liquor industry comes into the cannabis world properly tested, safe, regulated, and without the threat of being sold to kids,” he argued.

“We wholeheartedly support the legislation,” NJ CannaBusiness Association (NJCBA) President Scott Rudder said.

He echoed his previous testimony that his sample Delta-8 hemp product ingredients didn’t match those listed on the box.

“This is a public safety nightmare,” Rudder exclaimed.  

“There is no such thing as intoxicating hemp,” he argued.

The catch is that prior to legalization, marijuana, cannabis, and hemp were names of the same plant. The 2018 Farm Bill defined hemp with less than .3 percent THC.

“You’re going to sell cannabis in liquor stores where municipalities will not have a say in what’s going on,” Rudder declared. “We’re going to allow thousands of liquor stores to sell weed in their stores.”

He noted that regulating more liquor stores would take a lot more money and work for the NJCRC.

Giving In to Big Booze

State Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz (D-29) passionately defended her bill and her deal with liquor and beer corporation lobbyists. She argued the cannabis industry had been quiet on Delta 8 THC when she wanted to work on this.

“Safeguarding drinking products is only what the amendment talks about,” Ruiz claimed.

“Sometimes we have to accommodate different things,” she admitted.

Fighting Big Booze

Susanna P. Short, formerly of the NJ Cannabis Trade Association (NJCTA) and now the NJ Cannabis Equity Association, testified that kids shouldn’t have access to Delta intoxicating hemp. Like Rudder and Caruso, she liked the legislation except for the exception granted to liquor stores.

“There’s no consensus on what a carveout should look like,” Short argued. “I have yet to hear a compelling argument why liquor stores need to participate in the sale of THC.”

She said kids can buy non-alcoholic items at liquor stores unaccompanied by a parent.

“I thought when you walk into a liquor store as a minor, you cannot buy one item, uh, without having an adult with you,” Budget Committee Chair Paul Sarlo-(D-36) said.

“There’s nobody standing at the door checking ID like they do at dispensaries,” Short replied.

Todd Johnson of the NJCTA echoed comments in favor of Delta-8 hemp regulation. He was also against the amendments and the liquor store carveout/exception. Johnson said towns are not making any money off liquor stores selling weed drinks since it’s not locally taxed, unlike dispensary sales.

“I ask the mayors and city councilmembers of municipalities that have banned cannabis product sales in their towns, how do you feel about the liquor stores making a mockery of home rule in your municipality?” he asked.  “You banned cannabis sales. But it is being sold to consumers in your town right now.”

More Delta 8 THC Intoxicating Hemp Testimony

Brewer’s Guild lobbyist Eric Orlando said his members want NJCRC manufacturing licenses. He didn’t want out-of-state breweries to have the same privilege, though. Orlando wanted another special amendment.

Cannabis lobbyist Beau Huch was in favor of the amendments and noted he has a Massachusetts-based intoxicating hemp beverage client who likes the exception. The company owner later said he was a Jersey boy who wanted to do business in his home state.

UFCW labor union Organizer Mike Burry liked legislation but not amendment. He liked that cannabis license holders are mandated to be pro-union.

Hemp is a national industry with interstate commerce and companies in many anti-union states. So Burry was worried that products sold in the previously legally isolated New Jersey cannabis market could be made in such states. Burry wanted it all manufactured here.

Very little intoxicating hemp is currently manufactured in New Jersey.

Plainfield Business Administrator Abby Levinson also liked the legislation but not the amendments.

The New Jersey Hemp Industry Defends Itself

“A picture has been painted that all people selling these products are bad actors. My team and I have taken an educational approach to qualify consumers for the right application of products,” Patrick Simpson of CBD of Newton said.

He said hemp helped him deal with a cancer diagnosis he survived.

“I do welcome more robust regulation and I would like to be a part of that. But I do think this bill um is not exactly going to give us that fair opportunity,” Simpson said.

He noted he is also trying to open a dispensary which is very difficult since some towns are pro-CBD stores but anti-dispensary.

“Let us work together to create a sustainable framework for responsible people to continue to educate,” Simpson declared. “Regulation is key in this industry and we have not had much oversight until now.”

Protecting Established Companies

Patrick Bauer of Amherst Brands of California claimed he represented small businesses and did not like the bill.

“The vast majority will not be able to withstand shifts in how they operate their businesses,” he argued. “Regardless of whether Delta 8 is a loophole is irrelevant. They’re here. They’re established.”

“Further regulation is needed but this isn’t it. Who’s to say the CRC will even be able to handle the potentially thousands of stores applying for a license?” Bauer asked.

“This bill should be denied as we await a new foundation at the federal level,” he added.

Hemp attorney and advocate Brett Goldman said they wanted regulation but didn’t like the bill.

“Age gating is necessary,” he conceded.

Goldman said 4,000 jobs would be lost, which would hurt families.

“The CRC is not ready to handle this additional regulatory task,” he added.

“Instead of rushing legislation that harms people in New Jersey, let’s just move this stuff behind the counter and begin real discussions,” Goldman declared. “What about online sales from out of state?”

Big Booze Wins Carveout Exception

Sarlo listed several Big Booze lobbyists in favor of the amendments who did not testify.

He also defended their concession to liquor and booze lobbyists.

“We have a good compromise here,” he claimed.

“These products are being sold everywhere and anywhere,” Ruiz said.

She defended her exception for the liquor and beer lobbyists.

The NJ Senate Budget Committee approved the bill with the exception/amendment.

Assembly Appropriations Committee Approves New Hemp Rules

The NJ Assembly Appropriations Committee then reviewed the hemp regulation bill A 4461.

NJ Delta 8 THC Intoxicating Hemp bill passes Assembly committee

“Hemp is cannabis, and its intoxicating properties pose similar risks and require the same stringent oversight. The State of New Jersey has made a commitment to social equity, ensuring that communities disproportionately hurt by the War on Drugs have opportunities in the legal cannabis market,” Minority Cannabis Business Association President (MCBA) and Simply Pure dispensary owner Tahir Johnson explained.

“I had to raise over $2 million to establish Simply Pure in Trenton. This underscores the need for a level playing field,” he added.

New Jersey cannabis advocate and consultant Leo Bridgewater opposed the liquor store exception, too.

Orlando repeated his request for a special concession for brewers. He opposed the bill when it was not granted.

National Hemp Complications

A representative of Champs Trade Shows, which has a yearly convention in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, noted the need for testing but opposed the bill.

Then Aramis Torres Jr. said he got into hemp with far less than the $2 million Johnson needed and secured over several months.

“I didn’t have that time. I had twins,” he noted.

“Please don’t criminalize me and the 1400 different retailers right now across New Jersey,” Torres said.

He claimed that 20 percent of operating New Jersey dispensaries are backed by Wall Street money.

Hugh Giordano of the UCFW labor union testified against the bill. He thought it would hurt the unionized licensed cannabis places since it might allow non-union states to do interstate commerce on hemp products, which is allowed federally.

Eric Richards of the AFL-CIO labor union coalition agreed with him.

Goldman also spoke again in favor of regulations like age restrictions but opposed the bill. He repeated his argument that the NJCRC is over-burdened.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee passed the bill amended as well.

Both committees met another time and briefly closed the possible loophole of hemp products from another state being sold in a New Jersey adult-use cannabis dispensary.

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