An effort to regulate intoxicating hemp products is stalled in the Ohio Legislature

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Gummy worms, gummy bears and Rice Krispie treats are all notable sweets. Right now, these snacks are being sold as hemp-infused products at your local gas station, store or vape shop. 

And they can be potent. A store clerk advised a customer to start with only a bite-sized piece of the Rice Krispie treat because it’s so intoxicating. 

Products like these, often packaged to look like popular children’s candy, are largely unregulated under federal and state law. There’s no age restriction on who can buy them or limits on how intoxicating they can be. 

Two containers of hemp-infused gummies leaning against each other
Delta-9 THC is packaged and distributed in the form of gummy worms and bears. [WOUB | Donovan Varney]
Some stores implement their own policies on age restrictions and where the products are located. 

The same store clerk who sold the Rice Krispie treat mentioned another product, a candy rope. The clerk, who noted he was a regular marijuana user, said he could barely handle a small piece because it’s so potent. 

Cannabis attorney Greg May says the easy access to these products has the legislature and the Governor worried as access to cannabis in Ohio expands because of Issue 2 passing. 

“Governor DeWine has been really out front on this issue over the last several months realizing what a threat it is to children because these products are not tested the same way that medical marijuana or adult use marijuana is going to be tested,” May said. 

Ohio lawmakers are looking to regulate these products with the proposal of Senate Bill 278. 

The bill would clear up some gray areas caused by the federal farm bill passed in 2018, which legalized hemp products. 

Ohio cannabis attorney Thomas Haren said under that bill, the only legal limitation is the Delta-9 THC content. Delta-9 is a strand of cannabis that has psychoactive effects on users. 

“Hemp is defined as the cannabis plant, derivatives thereof, et cetera, provided that the plants or the derivative products do not exceed 0.3% Delta-9 THC content,” Haren said. 

However, Haren said hemp processors have found ways to make more potent products through loopholes in the law.  

What has happened over the years since the farm bill was formed is that hemp companies have begun producing other types of products that include other types of THCs,” Haren said. 

Those other types include Delta-8, Delta-10 and THC-A. These strands, coupled with the Delta-9, are used to make more potent hemp products. 

Senate Bill 278 would expand the definition of intoxicating hemp products to include all strands of THC, not just Delta-9. It would also restrict the age of purchase to 21 and prohibit smoking cannabis in public areas, just as with tobacco products. 

“It creates a new code section that will essentially give the Department of Commerce in the Division of Cannabis Control the ability to regulate these products and impose rules for advertising, the sale and so forth,” May said. 

As things stand, the bill is stuck in committee. With lawmakers out for summer break, it’s unlikely efforts to increase regulations will go into effect this year. 

Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens has suggested addressing hemp in its own bill, as opposed to including it in the much larger Senate Bill 278.