What looks like a pot, works like a pot, but is it valid almost everywhere? conference

ST. LOUIS — It’s no surprise that musicians covering Grateful Dead and Phish songs in October at a dive bar here would be eager to try a new drink containing delta-9 THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in weed.

What was unusual was seeing a bar owner — in this case, Joshua Grigaitis of Pop’s Blue Moon — walk past customers without looking over his shoulder while holding a can of drinks where recreational pot remains illegal for the time being. Missouri voters will decide whether to liberalize the law in the Nov. 8 election.

“It contains 10mg of the good stuff, which is less than .3% by volume. That means it can be sold almost anywhere!” Grigaitis posted on Facebook last month when he announced a new product from his Mighty Kind cannabis-infused drink company: a hemp-derived delta-9 THC seltzer in “cherry blossom” or “heady lemon” flavors.

Grigaitis thinks he’s in a tough legal position when it comes to selling seltzer because it comes from hemp, not marijuana, two plants from the same plant. marijuana Breed Still, he labels the cans with the percentage of THC by volume, which indicates a federal limit allowed for hemp, anticipating testing of his product.

Instead of offering his drink to the crowded market of medical and adult-use marijuana — which remains illegal at the federal level and faces costly taxes and regulations where legal at the state level — Grigaitis thinks a loophole in a federal hemp law allows him to sell a product that Offers the same buzz at its bars, online and everywhere else.

As such, he said, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol products derived from hemp “have the potential to turn the entire cannabis industry upside down.”

Grigitis isn’t the only one who senses an opportunity. Some 120 brands are selling hemp-derived Delta-9 products online, according to an April survey released by CBD Oracle, which reports on the industry.

But others in the marijuana industry are concerned about loopholes and are seeking federal legislation to prevent people from selling intoxicating hemp products outside of dispensaries. They say some products are not safe because minors can access them more easily than dispensary products. And they are not usually subject to the oversight of state regulatory systems. Critics also claim the products undermine the intent of a 2018 federal law removing hemp from the federal controlled substances list.

a can "Might Kind Cannabis Seltzer." It has an intricate design and yellow label.
Joshua Grigaitis owns Mighty Kind, a marijuana-infused seltzer business in St. Louis. Flavored beverages contain small amounts of hemp-derived delta-9 THC. His products comply with a federally imposed limit, he said, which allows him to sell his products even though marijuana is illegal in Missouri.(Eric Berger for KHN)

“The medical marijuana and recreational marijuana industries are very regulated where identification, passports, driver’s licenses are all very tightly held at these dispensaries,” said Eric Wang, vice president of sustainability for the US Hemp Roundtable, a Kentucky-based trade. team

In contrast, he said, a 12- or 13-year-old child can legally buy a hemp-derived product.

When a bipartisan group of lawmakers passed the 2018 farm bill, the ad aimed to help struggling farmers by allowing industrial hemp cultivation. The law means people can sell CBD across state lines. CBD has since become a multi-billion dollar industry.

At the time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky who sponsored the legislation, said of hemp that “everybody understands that it’s not another plant.”

The primary difference between marijuana and hemp is that hemp contains very little THC. Federal law states that it cannot contain more than 0.3% delta-9 THC on a dry weight basis.

Grigaitis argues that his hemp-derived Delta-9 drink is legal because the THC content in the drink is less than 0.3% by weight of the liquid.

“It’s backed by my lawyer, my testing lab, my insurance, my bank — everybody,” said Grigaitis, whose Mighty Kind Drinks was featured in the recent Kevin Smith movie “Clarks III.”

His hemp-derived Delta-9 is made from one of two methods: extracting the cannabinoids from the hemp plant itself or through a chemical conversion in which the CBD from the hemp is dissolved in a solvent, Grigaitis said. The company is exploring both approaches to determine the pros and cons of each, he said.

Since the source is hemp rather than marijuana, he sees a clear path to selling his product outside of dispensaries, which come with heavy regulations and taxes and thus narrow profit margins. Why would he sell at a dispensary, he asked, “when you can go to a CBD store next door or a vape shop or a grocery store or a bar and sell your stuff?”

But some in the industry disagree with Grigitis’ interpretation of the federal law. The dry weight ratio refers to the amount of the plant, not the drink, says Jonathan Miller, general counsel for the Hemp Roundtable.

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) introduced legislation that would amend the 2018 law to place additional restrictions on hemp-derived products. The congresswoman was not available for an interview, Pingi spokeswoman Victoria Boni said.

Meanwhile, at least a dozen states have passed laws limiting the sale of another hemp-derived substance, delta-8, which is addictive but not as potent as delta-9. But states have been slow to catch on to these new drug products.

Miller expects parts of Pingi’s legislation to be included in the 2023 farm bill, as the 2018 bill expires next year. Miller said the roundtable wants regulations to limit the amount of THC in products made only from the plant, and to limit the sale of intoxicating hemp products to the adult-use market, such as a pot dispensary. Alternatively, the group wants to regulate it like alcohol.

The organization includes board members from some of the biggest companies in the adult-use marijuana market, including president Pete Meacham. He is a lobbyist employed by Kronos Group, a Canadian cannabis company whose largest shareholder is Altria, maker of Marlboro cigarettes and an investor in Juul. Meachum declined an interview request.

“Anything that threatens the monopoly of a regulated market is going to be a concern for those who have invested their time and money in it,” Grigaitis said.

But Miller said that with the new federal regulations, hemp-derived products “will be available in the same places where you can buy marijuana products, so there will be a level playing field.”

Other industry groups and the National Organization for Marijuana Law Reform have also called on the FDA to regulate hemp-derived products.

Meanwhile, patrons of Pop’s Blue Moon didn’t seem worried about the lack of regulation and were happy to try Grigaitis’ new seltzer. Harper Britz, a 21-year-old who works in the music industry, said she gets a pleasant buzz from seltzer. He liked that he could taste marijuana.

“It gets that aroma in the nose, just like when you smell alcohol,” said Britz, who lives in St. Louis and uses marijuana regularly. “I’d drink it every day if I could.”

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