GOOCHLAND COUNTY, Va. — A pair of hemp industry bills on Governor Glenn Youngkin’s desk has Reed Anderson concerned for his family’s future.
Anderson co-foundedkame Naturals to offer his parents an alternative to prescription pills for their ailments. He grows hemp in Goochland County, and sells CBD oils and creams locally at places like farmer’s markets.
Anderson predicted that he would have to shutter his business if Youngkin signs bills (SB 903 and HB 2294) passed by the General Assembly, which are aimed at regulating the hemp industry.
Much of the concern lies with synthetic THC, or Delta 8, that can be found in hemp products. Lawmakers saw a surge of calls to poison centers related to children ingesting edibles and decided to act.
The legislation puts a cap on the amount of THC concentration allowed in hemp products in the state to rid the market of edibles that can get someone high. Some of these products include colorful packaging and can mirror actual brands, which can be enticing to children.
The president of the Virginia Healthy Alternatives Association (VHAA) told CBS 6 last week the measures would effectively take 99% of hemp products off the market.
Anderson and VHAA agree with some of the regulations outlined in the bills, like childproof packaging and testing requirements.
“Not once has kame Naturals ever stepped outside of .3% Delta 9 THC in our product, never. [We] crossed our T’s, dotted our I’s and made sure that every last product that we've made has been to that federal limit,” Anderson explained.
The bills would cap total THC concentration at .3%. Another provision of the bill would also limit total THC per package to two milligrams or less.
“Now with two milligrams of THC per package — and they don't define package in the bill — that’s essentially a THC-free product,” he said. “Nobody in their right mind is going to pay $125 for a bottle of oil for 27 milligrams of THC when they can go down the road to one of their friends that's growing their for plants at home that Virginia has legalized and get the real thing. Why would anyone want to slug an entire bottle of CBD oil to get high?”
Anderson said they are on board with HB 2294 if lawmakers change the limit of two milligrams of THC per package. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to sell their products in quantities that would actually be beneficial to the user.
Youngkin talked to reporters at Richmond’s Westwood Fountain about his expectations when the bills were circulating among the General Assembly.
“I have been most concerned this session about consumer protection around Delta-8 and how it has been infused into a supply chain that makes it accessible to children and others on an undisclosed basis,” he said.
The bills were inspired by Youngkin and a task force by Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares “which proposed recommendations to regulate hemp products meant for human consumption,” according to reporting by the Richmond Times Dispatch.
“I am optimistic we'll get a good bill that allows us to tighten up our regulation around something that is really damaging to consumers, and I look forward to signing that bill this year,” Youngkin said.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) worked with then-Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) in 2018 to remove barriers to hemp production in America, and define hemp as an agricultural commodity.
“Hemp tends to grow pretty well where in places where tobacco is grown. Kentucky and Virginia are both states that have had a significant history with the tobacco industry. We want to provide new crops and alternative crops to tobacco and hemp seemed like a perfect one,” Kaine said.
He also expressed concerns that the bills put too strict of a limit on hemp production and make it essentially uneconomic to use as a crop in Virginia.
Kaine said Virginia allows for governors to amend bills and send them back to lawmakers for another vote. He encouraged invested parties to reach out to Youngkin.
“This one troubles me, and I hope we can find a solution that works,” Kaine said.
VHAA said in a statement that the bill, if passed, heavily impacts the currently legal hemp market and would outlaw a significant number of products that are currently on the shelves.
“This will criminalize hemp products on the same level as intoxicating marijuana. This bill, which imposes limits on hemp-derived products that are far more stringent than the federal government and our neighboring states, will outlaw products that are currently safe and legal and will lead to Virginians losing their jobs. This bill will create an unsafe and unregulated black market and will turn former law-abiding citizens into criminals,” the association stated.
Del. Terry Kilgore (R-Norton) sponsored the house version of the bill and said in a statement that the intent of the bill is to keep the community safe.
“The escalation of poison control calls, ER visits, and serious illness or death from these unregulated products should be alarming for all Virginians,” Kilgore stated. “The intent of this bill is to ultimately keep children and our communities safe.”
It’s unclear when Governor Youngkin may sign the bills into law.
EAT IT, VIRGINIA restaurant news and interviews