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By William Haupt III [Tennessee Watchdog Journalist, Columnist, Author, and Citizen Legislator] –
Members of the House Criminal Justice Committee held a hearing last week regarding hemp-based cannabinoids in Tennessee. Among those who testified during the more than two-hour hearing included officials from the public safety and business communities.
“We’re not talking about legalizing or decriminalizing anything,” said committee chairman and State Rep. Michael G. Curcio, R-Dickson. “These are products that are already perfectly legal. We need to figure out how we tell consumers what they are and make sure there aren’t bad actors lying to them.”
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Delta-8 is a psychoactive substance found in the cannabis sativa plant, of which marijuana and hemp are two varieties, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
While Delta-8 and Delta-10 are federally legal, Delta-9 is not, said Jesse West, an attorney who represents the Tennessee Growers Coalition.
Nationwide, 15 states have restricted or banned Delta-8 and other hemp-derived cannabinoids – mostly due to the industry’s failure to regulate.
The lack of clear, industry-wide regulation and testing standards in Tennessee could mean problems for customers, testified Devin Aracena, co-founder and CEO of Canvast Supply Co., a consumer products company that uses cannabinoids as a functional ingredient in a variety of products.
The Tennessee Growers Coalition estimates that there are approximately 8,000 retail stores that sell Delta 8 and other hemp-derived THC products across the state.
“People who are getting (these products) don’t know what they are in for,” Aracena said. “They don’t know what’s going to happen. They don’t know the effects that are going to impede them or impaired them.”
Tennessee Highway Patrol Col. Matt Perry expressed concern regarding how the products could impair drivers, noting that “our biggest concern is crashes and traffic safety.”
Every year, there are approximately 2,500 vehicle crashes in Tennessee that involve some type of drug impairment, Perry added. Since 2017, there have been 545 traffic fatalities statewide involving marijuana, according to information provided by the Tennessee Department of Safety. There were 1,311 traffic fatalities that involved alcohol during the same time.
Mike Lyttle, who is the assistant director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s (TBI) forensic services division, said there is currently no blood test to determine if an individual has Delta-8 or Delta-9 in their system. He also said that he is not aware of anyone overdosing on either of the two substances, but added that “it is something we’re learning about.”
The TBI’s crime lab has received 13,381 samples of plant material to test from law enforcement within the last two years. Of that, about 87 percent was found to be marijuana while the remaining samples were consistent with being hemp.
“If people had a license or some way to prove what they had was hemp and they are satisfying the law, it wouldn’t show up in our lab, we wouldn’t have to test it and we’d be able to do other things,” Lyttle told lawmakers Wednesday.
William Haupt III is a retired professional journalist, author, and citizen legislator in California for over 40 years. He got his start working to approve California Proposition 13. His work also appears in The Center Square, The Western Journal, Neighbor Newspapers, KPXJ 21 (Shreveport, LA), Killeen Daily Herald, Aberdeen American News, InsideNova, Kankakee Daily Journal, Monterey County Weekly, Olean Times Herald, The Greeneville Sun and more. Follow William on Twitter @iii_haupt.