Lawmakers hope to close medical marijuana loopholes

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A bipartisan bill in the Florida Legislature is seeking further regulation of the state’s medical marijuana industry. Democrat and Republican lawmakers hope to pass a bill that would make it difficult to buy and sell medical marijuana related products, specifically Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Delta-9 THC is the most vigorous element extracted from the hemp plant. The hemp plant also yields the Delta-8 compound, a legal and less potent form of THC that produces a similar elated effect to Delta-9.

Delta-8 has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, but the compound is legal and considered to be an outlet for marijuana users.

The flimsy research and regulation on Delta-8, however, makes it especially dangerous for consumers. The House Bill (HB 679) hopes to close this loophole by increasing regulations on Delta-8 and limiting the scope of products protected within the medical marijuana industry. HB 679 would provide a variety of guidelines to protect consumers and decrease exploitation by sellers that includes, prohibiting Delta-8 to sale to anyone under the age of 21, creating evaluation procedures for new products, introducing cost-effective processes for patients in medical marijuana programs, and preventing medical marijuana treatment centers from selling licenses for profits.

Nikki Fried, commissioner of Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, is a vocal advocate of medical marijuana. She said the bill would help “monitor the introduction of new products from a fast-moving industry.”

Fried also said that protecting consumers is one of her top priorities as Florida’s commissioner of agriculture.

According to the FDA, Delta-8 products may be labeled as hemp products and could mislead a consumer who associates hemp with non-psychoactive products. Additionally, there is concern from the FDA about products that are labeled “for therapeutic or medical use” despite not being approved for such uses.

In 2021, there were 661 calls to the Poison Control Center regarding Delta-8, and one hundred of those calls resulted in hospitalizations. Of the cases, 39% of them involved pediatric patients under age 18.

Although Delta-8 cannot directly cause death, the low regulation of the industry makes it possible for products to be contaminated during manufacturing.

The bill would attempt to limit false advertising practices for Delta-8 products, and it would restrict digital advertising to children.

Medically marijuana is legal in 37 out of 50 states. Recreational marijuana is fully legal in 19 states. Otherwise, it is illegal to carry any form of marijuana without proper medical documentation.

The proposed bill would be the first major step for regulation of the medical marijuana industry since it was legalized in Florida five years ago. There have been prior failed attempts to amend medical marijuana in Florida. However, both sponsors of HB 679 are confident in the potential for a bipartisan effort to create a safer medical marijuana industry in Florida.