DeWine asks Ohio lawmakers, again, for regulations to get delta-8 off the shelves

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — A bill that cleared the Ohio Senate in early December but has since stalled would significantly modify the state’s soon-to-be recreational marijuana program, and Gov. Mike DeWine again urged lawmakers Wednesday to act on some of it in short order by passing regulations of what the state calls “intoxicating hemp.”

Gov. Mike DeWine holds up a Delta 8 product that looks like a small box of frosted flakes.
Gov. Mike DeWine holds a box of delta-8 infused “cereal bars” at a media conference on Jan. 17, 2024. [Sarah Donaldson | Statehouse News Bureau]
Delta-8 THC is often derived from cannabidiol, or CBD. It’s just one legal substance the state says is being marketed toward children through its packaging—which might resemble popular candies or cereals. DeWine said Wednesday he’d have no issue with an all-out ban of delta-8 THC, a route other states have gone.“I just want to get it off the shelves,” he said.The federal Farm Bill created a gray area in 2018, removing cannabis products with less than 0.3 percent delta-9 THC from the definition of marijuana. Delta-8 fits the bill, which is why even before passage of Issue 2 in November 2023, retailers in Columbus and elsewhere could sell products with psychoactive ingredients that induce a high.The products containing these psychoactive substances are generally more synthetic than products with naturally occurring cannabis, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).The state’s Medical Marijuana Control Program said in 2022 that medical processors have to test and label products if they include delta-8 THC, among other THC isomers. But few other regulations of the substance exist in Ohio, which is why it’s legal to buy at any age.Ohio Department of Public Safety Director Andy Wilson enlisted two 15-year-olds over the weekend to make that case. Wilson said Wednesday he sent them into a BP gas station, where they bought delta-8 THC infused gummies without question.Sen. Steve Huffman (R-Tipp City) is drafting a regulatory proposal as a standalone bill based off language that was included in the Ohio Senate’s bigger cannabis bill, House Bill 86. Under HB 86, only licensed marijuana retailers could sell delta-8 to of-age customers.

Ohio House leaders have signaled the chamber wouldn’t concur with HB 86.

“There’s been a question in the General Assembly as to whether or not this should be part of the marijuana bill,” DeWine said Wednesday. “Candidly, I don’t care.”

Huffman said he wants to make sure the bill he’s introducing balances concerns from retailers, who have told him regulations of cannabidiols that are too strict could shutter CBD stores outright.

“There are some really good CBD products out there, but there’s others that are manufactured in a way that are intoxicating and not safe,” Huffman said in an interview in earlier January.

An earlier version of regulations regarding delta-8 THC and other derivatives was taken out of the state budget in summer 2023, Huffman said.

More than 20% of U.S. adults used CBD in the last year, and 12% used delta-8 THC, according to a Journal of American Medical Association study.