New Bill Addresses Sale of Hemp Derived Products to Minors

Elinor Smith from the University of Montana School of Journalism is providing reports from the Montana legislative session to New Media Broadcasters. This is one of her reports. 

HELENA — The House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on a bill Tuesday that would make it illegal to sell or give any hemp-derived intoxicating cannabinoid to a minor. 

Rep. Ron Marshall, R-Hamilton, is sponsoring House Bill 373. He said a hemp product called Delta-8 is being sold with no age restrictions in gas stations, grocery stores and specialty stores across Montana since the 2018 Farm Bill Act legalized the production of hemp under a certain THC percentage.

“And now what you have are people taking the cannabinoids out of the hemp flower and they are extracting those and processing and manufacturing them through labs. And they’re increasing the dosage by as much as I’ve seen 400%. So this is a legally sold product,” Marshall said.  

Delta-8 is produced through a chemical process that distills CBD, a nonintoxicating substance derived from marijuana or hemp, into an intoxicating substance that is chemically different. 

There were three proponents of the bill, who said they worry about children accessing substances that could harm them. Jean Branscum is the CEO of the Montana Medical Association and she spoke as a proponent of the bill. 

“It keeps bad stuff out of good kids’ hands. We know that there’s individuals that are adults that are making decisions to consume certain products, but when it comes to children, we don’t know the impact completely on those children and brains are developing to the age of 24,” Branscum said.  

Kristan Barbour is the administrator of the the Cannabis Control Division in the Department of Justice. The division is tasked with making sure that any marijuana products sold in Montana are safe, regulated and unappealing to children. Barbour brought up Delta-8 concerns during a briefing to lawmakers on January 6. 

“One of the biggest issues we’re dealing with, and we hope that you’ll be hearing about during the session, is intoxicating hemp. This is a really emerging market following the federal legalization of hemp in 2018. A national industry has rapidly emerged to manufacture and sell consumable products that contain cannabinoids derived from hemp. The relative lack of federal regulation or enforcement of these products presents several challenges with implications for public health and safety and the ability of consumers to make informed choices about the products that they’re consuming,” Barbour said.  

The FDA has not approved the consumption of Delta-8 or any other variation of a hemp-derived cannabinoid. The FDA has also received 104 reports of adverse effects caused by Delta-8 from January 2020 to February of 2022. Over half of those reports required medical treatment. However, poison control centers received 2,362 reports of adverse effects of Delta-8. Seventy percent of those incidents received medical treatment. 

The bill would add giving or selling intoxicating hemp products like Delta-8 and anything containing kratom – a stimulant-like substance that comes from a plant indigenous to Southeast Asia –  to a list of other goods or services that are restricted for minors, including explosives and other age-inappropriate services like body modifications or goods from a pawn shop. Penalties include a $500 dollar fine, six months in jail or both. The fine for selling or giving unauthorized goods to children is doubled on a second offense to $1,000 and could also come with six months of jail time. 

There were no opponents of the bill and the committee did not take immediate action.

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