Pot-related products would be banned under bill passed by NH lawmakers

By RICK GREEN

Keene Sentinel

Published: 07-05-2023 10:55 AM

A bill headed to the governor’s desk would prohibit retail outlets from selling gummies, vape canisters and other products containing an intoxicating substance similar to the active ingredient in marijuana.

These so-called delta-8 THC products are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and pose serious health risks, according to the federal agency. They are currently sold throughout the state.

House Bill 611, which the N.H. House and Senate passed in voice votes this past Thursday, would outlaw the sale of products containing the substance, which is derived from hemp. 

“Once signed into law, the N.H. Liquor Commission’s Division of Enforcement and Licensing will ensure compliance within our licensed establishments regarding the changes related to the sale of hemp-derived THC products,” commission spokesman E.J. Powers said in a written statement Monday.

The commission would also get the word out that these products should not be sold, he said.

“With any legislation or law change, the Division communicates through our educational platforms, industry circulars and regular premise inspections and contacts with our licensees,” Powers said.

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Smokers Haven in Keene sells delta-8 products that can be smoked or vaped, Savannah Rice, the store’s manager, said Monday. She wasn’t aware of HB 611, or the N.H. Liquor Commission’s intent to prohibit sales. 

“I have not heard that, but if they do, we’ll just stop selling them, Rice said.

These products are manufactured through something of a loophole in a 2018 federal law that approved the sale and possession of hemp — a type of cannabis used in the manufacture of rope, yarn and burlap — while strictly limiting the amount of delta-9 THC that could be included. Delta-9 THC is the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

But the law was silent on delta-8, which can also be intoxicating in sufficient quantities.

This led companies to manufacture delta-8 products that can make a user feel “high,” said Matt Simon, director of public and government relations for Prime Alternative Treatment Centers, which dispenses medical marijuana in New Hampshire. 

It's not hard to find a place to buy these products, he said in an interview Monday.

"I was just walking in downtown Nashua and saw the vape shop has a sign in front saying, 'Delta-8 products sold here,' " Simon said.  

The FDA says on its website that the manufacturing process for delta-8 products can leave residual contaminants that are unsafe for consumers. It also says the products are sometimes packaged and labeled in a way that appeals to children.

The crackdown on delta-8 products is just one provision of HB 611, which has a main intent of establishing a commission to study proposed state-controlled sales of cannabis.

The bill also would remove the requirement that severe pain be resistant to other treatment options in order to be considered a qualifying medical condition for therapeutic cannabis.

Rep. John Hunt, R-Rindge, said this is an example of "Christmas tree legislation," with various topics added like ornaments. Such bills arise late in a legislative session as lawmakers work to pass their priorities before the summer break.

In an interview Monday, he noted that the prohibition on delta-8 products would sunset after one year at his urging. If the governor signs the bill, it would go into effect Sept. 1.   

Hunt said his preference is that regulation of these substances be addressed in a larger bill concerning legalization of marijuana for recreational use in the state.

“Sunsetting it keeps everybody focused on task that we’ve got to decide what [cannabis] legalization legislation will look like,” he said.

He said his constituents have not complained to him about delta-8 products.

“Nobody even knows they exist,” he said.

On April 6, Hunt voted in favor of House Bill 639 to legalize cannabis in New Hampshire, the only New England state that has not done so. Although the House passed that measure, 272-109, the Senate voted it down, 14-10, on April 12.

Rick Green can be reached at rgreen@keeneSentinel.com or 603-355-8567.

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org. 

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