“I’m hoping you have in mind how much these small businesses invested… That’s going to impact their business and their investment, and the trust that businesses have for Louisiana, that’s important how we handle this and how we make these companies whole.”
By Viktor Skinner, The Center Square
Hundreds of hemp products approved by the Louisiana Department of Health could become illegal under an emergency rule discussed by the House Health and Welfare Committee this week.
The situation has caused chaos in the state’s growing hemp industry, with entrepreneurs testifying the change could cost some hundreds of thousands of dollars they’ve invested in products.
LDH general counsel Steve Russo outlined nine proposed changes on Wednesday following consultation with lawmakers and industry leaders, the most controversial dealing with limits on THC and serving size.
The law limits THC—the active compound in hemp and marijuana—to 8 milligrams per serving for products like cookies, gummies, and other items. But LDH has approved hundreds of products with multiple servings in a single package, something Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzalez, said violates the law.
Schexnayder, who shepherded several hemp bills in recent years, identified almost 400 products approved by LDH that should not have been because of the multiple serving issue.
“What the legislature, the language that we did in the bill, if we followed those guidelines, I don’t think we have this issue today,” he said.
Schexnayder noted that a sweep by LDH of products that should be considered illegal uncovered 230 products, pointing to continued issues with interpreting the law.
The speaker suggested reviewing the definitions for floral hemp in the proposed emergency rule, as well as language regarding measuring devices for certain products.
“I think we can go back and work on those issues and I think we can clear up a lot of that,” he said.
Rep. C. Travis Johnson, D-Vidalia, raised concerns about the impact on businesses that have invested in products approved by LDH that would instantly become illegal under the proposed emergency rule.
“I’m hoping you have in mind how much these small businesses invested,” he said. “Louisiana has to be business friendly, and in this particular case there were errors made on our part. So when you’re making these rules…that’s going to impact their business and their investment, and the trust that businesses have for Louisiana, that’s important how we handle this and how we make these companies whole.”
“I haven’t heard any proposals to make them whole,” Johnson said.
Schexnayder noted that the changes could impact as many as 3,000 hemp businesses, another 3,000 retailers and about 70 farmers in the industry.
Numerous business leaders testified about how the proposed rules would impact both their companies and the public.
“We don’t have a problem working with regulations… We want regulation,” said Jason Garsee, owner of Str8W8 Cannabis in Monroe and president of the Gulf South Hemp Association. “But what we do have a problem is a department with certain individuals that are trying to knock the kneecaps out of every entrepreneur and business owner in this state.
“They’re average individuals. They have families. They have goals and they have dreams, and they’re being destroyed today because of all this,” Garsee said.
“I have customers coming to us daily, crying in relief because it has changed their life,” said Crystal Grayson, owner of Zorrillo Cannabis Company. “And by regressing backwards and not working together, like we need to, it’s only going to hurt the public.”
Photo courtesy of Kimzy Nanney.