Colorado Intoxicating Cannabinoid Legislation Threatens an Industry, Fails to Protect Patients and Endangers America’s Children
SB23-271 ignores history, rewards special interest groups and will harm pioneering farmers, while failing to protect children from intoxicating and potentially toxic materials.
By Hunter Buffington (Agriculture Policy Solutions) part of the Alliance for Safe Hemp that includes Alan Lewis (Natural Grocers) and Thuy Vu (Thuy Vu consulting) among others.
Colorado has been leading the US in developing a safe and federally compliant hemp CBD industry since we initiated our program in 2014. Colorado farmers jumped in to register, grow and harvest the first legal hemp crop in over 80 years. Coloradans now have reliable access to federally compliant, safe CBD products of all kinds.
Due to FDA inaction, growing consumer demand, innovative companies, and the general desire to bring cannabis to the people, a new industry of intoxicating hemp-derived cannabis products have hit the market.
In some cases, these new products are produced in an unsafe, unregulated manner, and as a result, we now see state legislatures passing bills that will cripple the hemp industry’s good players, while bad actors continue to sell unregulated and potentially dangerous compounds into the gray market where shoppers may confuse them with safe, regulated products. The rest of the country is looking to Colorado for informed, enforceable regulations, like those developed by the Intoxicating Cannabinoids Task Force convened last year by the legislature. The task force included experts from both the hemp and marijuana industries, retailers and regulators who worked together to develop an industry framework with proper rules and guidelines. It was these recommendations that were originally in the bill, SB23-271, and which we, and many others in the hemp industry, arrived at the capitol ready to support two weeks ago.
Unfortunately, SB23-271 was amended multiple times without notice to stakeholders – sometimes while a hearing was still in process. More amendments have been added since then to make the original legislation no longer understandable. It now expresses contradictory aims of powerful back-room special interests. Ironically, the proposed legalization of synthetic THC derivatives allows them to be manufactured in Colorado, but only if shipped to other states. Proponents of the bill have stated this bill will “protect Colorado’s children” from these novel unregulated intoxicating cannabinoids, but would allow children in other states to be exposed to them.
It has long been established in science that full spectrum extracts from industrial hemp result in safe and effective natural compounds containing a balance of high CBD to low THC, which prevents intoxication. The residual THC is limited to .3% in the final product, but this small amount remains essential to achieving the therapeutic effect of the full extract. SB23-271 confuses federally compliant full-spectrum botanical products with unregulated products containing synthetic THC analogs. They are not the same and should be regulated separately. The suspect products are made without proper standards and may contain any number of toxic contaminants. Non-compliant products are not much better than street drugs and are sold in similar venues, while compliant products are used widely by Coloradans for their therapeutic properties.
We cannot let this bill pass as written/amended, so we need to send a message to our legislators that Colorado must write its rules through disciplined stakeholder groups including qualified scientists and professionals willing to share their expertise and volunteer their time. We have done this for hemp as animal feed in 2017, the hemp and shellfish food rulemaking in 2018 and the Colorado Hemp Agricultural Management Plan process that led to a state plan that ended up influencing the USDA Final Rules. Colorado leads the country in hemp regulation because we use science and real-world expertise to craft our programs and rules. SB23-271 ignores this history, rewards special interest groups and will harm pioneering farmers, while failing to protect children from intoxicating and potentially toxic materials.
We have included a bullet point list of our biggest concerns below. We need you to alert your Senators and Representatives before Wednesday morning that Colorado should listen to experts, show care for its farmers and children, and vote down this bill.
Colorado Representatives can be found here. Please both call and email.
Call to Action and talking points
The senate drafted 17 amendments to SB23-271 and adopted half of them. Many of them do not make sense, like abandoning FDA dietary supplement labeling rules in favor of a new state label. Others are contradictory, like non-intoxicating hemp products being regulated under the marijuana code. Our coalition has made a comprehensive list of problems and inconsistencies on which to build a call to action:
● Safe Harbor for the production and distribution of synthetic THC (D8, D10) — but only for sale to other states that allow its sale. So, we endeavor to protect our own children, but not children in other states.
● Mainstream and compliant CBD companies have workable limits on THC content per unit – if it is accompanied by a ratio of 15:1 or 20:1 parts of CBD to THC. Smaller farmers who grow Farm Bill compliant Hemp with lower CBD content will be pinched by the ratios and may have to modify their final formulas by adding isolated CBD to be legal in Colorado.
● Marketers within the state that are selling dangerous, intoxicating, and/or noncompliant compounds masquerading as safe dietary supplements, food, or energy drinks may be acting illegally — but this will not stop unscrupulous sellers unless there is significant effective enforcement.
● The bad actors diverting CBD from the hemp industry and converting it into synthetic THC analogs will have a few more years of cash-cow profits — until other states also ban these materials and force them back into the black market.
● Patients who depend on high CBD broad spectrum extracts from botanical sources with low residual THC will have fewer choices within Colorado. Alarmist groups continue to confuse good CBD products with bad synthetic ones, and in turn advocate that any amount of THC should force a product into dispensaries with age limits.
In short, SB23-271 has arrived so damaged we need to vote it down.
Opinions stated in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Let’s Talk Hemp or WAFBA LLC.