WA House COG - Committee Meeting
(December 2, 2022) - Synthesized Cannabinoid Trends and State Updates

WA House COG - Gillian Schauer - CANNRA - Synthesized Cannabinoids

A cannabis regulatory expert spoke to the committee about cannabinoid regulation, including research, media reporting, federal statistics, and legislative efforts outside of Washington state.

Here are some observations from the Friday December 2nd Washington State House Commerce and Gaming Committee (WA House COG) Committee Meeting.

My top 3 takeaways:

  • Schauer briefed the committee on “National Trends and State Updates on Regulating Intoxicating Hemp-Derived Products,” addressing research, state level policy, and federal action on the issue (audio - 14m, video, presentation).
    • Following a WSLCB panel, Schauer promised to touch upon “updates to the science to adverse event reporting and really to what other states are doing.” She made clear that CANNRA was a “nonpartisan nonprofit organization that exists to convene, support, and educate cannabis regulatory agencies,” with “more than 40 States and US Territories in our membership.” The organization was “primarily funded by membership dues, and we're an affiliate of the Council of State Governments,” Schauer added. She then gave “a quick disclaimer” that she had no “industry funding to disclose and this presentation doesn't necessarily represent official opinions of CANNRA or any of the states with whom I work.”
    • Stating that concerns over delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-8-THC) had expanded to “really become an alphabet soup" including “a ton of different molecules that have come out that are being derived from hemp,” she named:
    • Available product types had “changed a bit,” she told the committee, going from “a lot of edible and vaping products” to also have “marketing of dabs on the hemp derived product landscape.” Schauer noted a “bit of a bump…in smokeable products that look like a cigarette” but turned out to be ”hemp plant matter and then it's sprayed with…delta-8 extract.” Moreover, many items were packaged to look “very similar to the products that we see in the regulated adult use cannabis space.”
    • Schauer quickly reviewed the process of extracting cannabidiol (CBD) from hemp plants: “you add acids, heat, and solvents to convert that CBD extract into other cannabinoids, some of which are found in nature, some of which are not and which we know very little to nothing about.” Mentioning the general lack of regulation around hemp derived products, she stressed there were many solvents that could be used “some of which are much more dangerous than others.” Schauer relayed that researchers were starting to “publish in the peer-reviewed academic literature some of the composition of…these hemp-derived impairing products,” highlighting several examples:
    • Lacking better understanding around “byproducts and adulterants being used in…these delta-8 and similar products," Schauer blamed an absence of federal regulation of the products. With “adverse event reporting continu[ing],” she showed media mentions of warning and poisonings, like a “case in Virginia where a four year old allegedly consumed a large amount of Delta 8 gummies and died.”
    • Schauer then shared how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “have recently updated National Poison Center data, they looked at data between January 1st, 2021 and February 2022. I want to mention up front, this is certainly an under-report of adverse effects” as it only counted “people that knew what they had consumed and took the time to call a poison center and report on that.” Schauer showed statistics on the “more than 2,300 exposure cases” reviewed:
      • “41% involved pediatric patients less than 18 years of age
      • 40% involved unintentional exposure to Delta-8 (and 82% of these
      • unintentional exposures impacted pediatric patients)
      • 70% of cases required health care facility evaluation, 8% of those resulted in admission to critical care (45% of patients requiring evaluation were pediatric patients)
      • One pediatric case was coded with a medical outcome of death”
    • Finding that federal action on the issue was muted due to the schedule 1 status of cannabis, Schauer said the response was so far “limited to issuing a few warning letters to companies with egregious violations particularly purporting medical benefit of products” although “they have a data acceleration plan to collect more data.”
    • Schauer found there were “two major issues that states are facing in regulation, one is how to deal with these chemically derived impairing cannabinoids…the other is how to deal with impairing amounts of delta-9-THC that is legally allowed in products that meet the hemp definition per the farm bill because hemp is defined on a dry weight basis.” She explained, “in a plant that may not be a lot of THC. But by weight, in gummies, or a chocolate bar, or a beverage, you can pack a lot of THC into that.” Schauer pointed to a December 2021 paper from the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC) that had a chart that “really shows how much Delta 9 THC you can legally have in these products and how that compared to the Oregon market at the time that they presented these data to their legislature.” OLCC staff found “three, four times the amount of delta-9-THC in a chocolate bar, way more than that in a beverage,” she remarked.
    • The subject matter could be challenging “for non-scientists,” Schauer said, and there wasn’t scientific consensus “on how to define impairing and intoxicating…what synthetic means,” how best to define cannabinoids “not found in nature,” and “what to do about full spectrum products. People that say they want a lot of cannabinoids in their products along with the CBD, those types of products can have high levels of THC and how do we classify those. And then what to do about biosynthetically derived cannabis that's coming from yeast or algae.” With Washington having “different agencies regulating hemp and cannabis,” Schauer found the emerging commercialized compounds “lack safety data and profiles so legislation that seeks to just…name the list of molecules that we’re concerned about quickly becomes outdated.”
    • Schauer highlighted several state policy responses:
      • Oregon – HB 3000 (2021)  Gave broad regulatory authority to OLCC to regulate impairing hemp-derived cannabinoids, set THC limit per serving in hemp (2mg/serving, 20mg/package). Recent task force to review regulations made to date.”
      • Michigan – HB 4517 (2021)  Gave CRA [Michigan Cannabis Regulatory Agency] authority to set a limit of THC in products, requires licensing from CRA for sales of Delta-8 and other forms of THC.
      • Nevada - SB 49 (2021)  Broadly defines THC (D8,9,10, THCO) and requires a license and approval from NV CCB [Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board] to make or sell Delta-8.”
        • According to Schauer, Michigan and Nevada had “somewhat similar approaches…to Oregon.”
      • Colorado – SB22-205 (2022)  Created a taskforce to make recommendations to regulate intoxicating hemp and THC products. Report with recommendations due to legislature Jan 1.
      • Virginia – HB 30 (2022)  Task force to analyze industrial hemp extracts and other substances containing THC intended for human consumption. Draft report was delivered on Nov. 8th” and its final report on November 14th.
        • State task forces were also popular approaches, she said, “in some cases those task forces were extremely diverse,” like Colorado, while Virginia “was more science-based.” In Virginia, “their draft report was unable to reach consensus on” many of the challenges she’d named, while Colorado’s group “had the same challenges…they've not been able to get much further than the legislatures did in discussion.”
      • Minnesota – HB 3595 (2022)  Legalized consumable hemp-derived products up to 5mg THC/serving, 50 mg/package with no purchase limits, and no required licensing.”
        • “Many have called the legalization scheme in Minnesota ‘adult use hemp’,” Schauer remarked, resulting in what she termed “an unregulated adult use approach, and the types of products that you can buy on the hemp market in Minnesota are probably very similar to adult use products that you would find in many states.”
    • Summing up her impressions of the varied approaches, Schauer said there were “some that I would argue are working better than others. This does continue to be a challenging area, CANNRA’s put together some resources” that “can be good primers” for those unfamiliar with the topic.
  • WA House COG Chair Shelley Kloba thanked Schauer for the presentation and signaled her approval of WSLCB engagement with CANNRA (audio - 1m, video).
    • Kloba appreciated knowing that Washington regulators weren’t “the only ones who are struggling with this…I like to think that Washington leads on a lot of things and I hope that we can continue to really make sure that product safety and minimizing risk is important” .
    • She then endorsed the “time that our LCB folks spend engaging with CANNRA. I think that's an important investment.”

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