“The current loophole that allows these dangerous products to be sold to children needs to be closed as soon as possible.”
By Megan Henry, Ohio Capital Journal
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) wants the state to either ban or regulate delta-8 THC products.
But since there’s nothing he can do administratively, he is urging lawmakers to do something in regards to intoxicating hemp products like delta-8.
“I would be very happy to have a ban,” DeWine said during a press conference, holding up packages of delta-8—one resembling Frosted Flakes, another looking like Cocoa Puffs and a third that looks like Trolli candy.
“It’s up to the legislature. If it is moved basically under the marijuana protocol, you wouldn’t see packaging like that…and I would be satisfied with that.”
Intoxicating hemp products are marketed to kids and are made to look like their favorite candy and treats. With no regulation and wide availability, it is all too easy for kids to get them. The current loophole that allows these products to be sold to children must be closed as… pic.twitter.com/f4iRVug9Y2
— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) January 17, 2024
Seventeen states have banned delta-8 and seven more have restrictions around it, according to the National Cannabis Industry Association.
What is delta-8?
Delta-8 is made from hemp and is “a little bit milder,” said Amanda Luckay, the owner of two CBD American Shaman Dispensary shops in Northeast Ohio.
The 2018 Farm Bill says hemp can be grown legally if it contains less than 0.3 percent THC—which helped usher in delta-8’s popularity. Hemp and marijuana are both types of cannabis plants, but hemp does not include THC by design.
But since delta-8 is 0.3 percent THC or less, it is not currently regulated and there is no age requirement to buy delta-8 products, meaning teenagers can buy it.
“The current loophole that allows these dangerous products to be sold to children needs to be closed as soon as possible,” DeWine said. “These products are marketed to kids and are made to look like their favorite candy and treats. With no regulation and wide availability, it is all too easy for kids to get them.”
Delta-8 is damaging to developing brains, said Gary Wenk, a professor emeritus of behavioral neuroscience at Ohio State University.
“The younger the brain, the more harm is done,” he said.
To show how easy it is for minors to buy delta-8 products, the Ohio Department of Public Safety recently executed a sting operation of sorts, even though there is no age requirement to purchase delta-8.
Two 15-year-old high-school students were sent to buy delta-8 gummies at a Clark County BP gas station “within 10 minutes and within three miles of their school,” said Ohio Department of Public Safety Director Andy Wilson.
The teens went to the gas station straight from basketball practice and they were successfully able to purchase the gummies. The clerk didn’t ask for either of their IDs, according to an audio recording of the purchase that was played during the press conference.
“These products are absolutely being designed and marketed to kids,” Wilson said. “This completely unregulated form of delta-8 THC, if I’m a teenager, can get me high or impaired to the point where I can no longer safely operate a car. … Too often these kids pop too many of these gummies because they taste just like candy.”
Delta-8 products shouldn’t be sold in gas stations, Luckay said.
“If you don’t know what you’re selling, you shouldn’t be selling it and most of those gas station owners do not know what they’re selling,” she said.
There have been at least 257 reports of delta-8 poisoning in Ohio over the last three years—including 102 in 2023 and 40 that involved children under six years old, according to the Ohio Poison Control Center.
Ninety percent of those children required emergency care or were hospitalized.
“The most common symptoms seen in emergency rooms include central nervous system depression, respiratory depression and trouble breathing, increased heart rate, blood pressure changes, vomiting and other neurologic effects,” said Lance Himes, assistant director of Ohio Department of Health.
What is being done at the Statehouse?
State Sen. Steve Huffman (R-Tipp City) is working on a bill that addresses intoxicating hemp products and DeWine is urging lawmakers to quickly pass it.
“I cannot do anything without action by the state legislator,” DeWine said. “I’m just asking the legislature to take action so we can get these products off the shelf. In the meantime, I would ask the retail establishments that are out there…the responsible thing to do is to take it off the shelf. We do need action by the state legislature to make this illegal.”
Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.
Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.
“It’s not a heavy lift,” Wilson said. “It shouldn’t be a big ask for the General Assembly or for anyone to take steps necessary to make sure that this doesn’t get in our kids hands.”
What retailers are saying
Retailers agree children shouldn’t use delta-8 products and support age restrictions.
“I don’t think I’ve ever even had a child walk in here,” Luckay said about her shops in Lakewood and North Olmsted.
CBD American Shaman Dispensary and Vapor Haus, which has 12 locations in the Dayton area, only sell hemp products to adults 21 and older.
“This is no different than the tobacco products that we sell,” Chris Voudris, the managing partner of Vapor Haus, said in a statement. “The businesses who are good actors in the industry are doing these things already. As in many industries, there are bad actors who do not follow appropriate guidelines but that will not stop with banning the product.”
When DeWine was asked about shops that do ID people and have age restrictions, he continued to harp on those who sell and market delta-8 to minors.
“I would say that they’re selling it to kids,” he said. “I’m saying it’s marketed to kids. The scientific data clearly indicates that kids should not be consuming this because it affects their brain and has potential for a long term impact on your cognitive development.”
Voudris and Luckay said DeWine is focusing on a small group of people who are doing it the wrong way.
“The products used in the press conference held by Governor DeWine are not indicative of the industry as a whole,” Voudris said in a statement. “The majority of legitimate retailers do not carry these products.”
Since most of Luckay’s business comes from the delta side of the counter, she worries about a potential statewide ban.
“I would probably go out of business and all my employees wouldn’t have jobs,” she said.
Photo courtesy of Pexels.