Illinois Politics

Illinois lawmakers could ban unregulated hemp products like Delta-8

"They may be marketed in ways that put the public health at risk and should especially be kept out of reach of children and pets," the FDA reported

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Illinois could soon crack down on stores selling Delta-8 products, along with CBD and Hemp under a proposal being considered by lawmakers this week.

The THC-based product, Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as Delta-8 THC, is "a psychoactive substance found in the Cannabis sativa plant, of which marijuana and hemp are two varieties," according to Food and Drug Administration.

"Delta-8 THC is one of over 100 cannabinoids produced naturally by the cannabis plant but is not found in significant amounts in the cannabis plant. As a result, concentrated amounts of delta-8 THC are typically manufactured from hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD)," the FDA reported.

But the products have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA "for safe use in any context," sparking warnings from the agency.

"They may be marketed in ways that put the public health at risk and should especially be kept out of reach of children and pets," the FDA noted.

Despite that, the products are commonly sold in Illinois, the Chicago area and elsewhere.

Within a few blocks in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood, there are four shops advertising the sale of Delta 8,CBD and Hemp products.

Currently, these stores don’t have to follow the same regulation and rules as state-licensed cannabis dispensaries. That’s one reason why state lawmakers are considering a ban.

“This is not an economic issue at all,” said Jason Erkes with Sunnyside dispensary. “This is about consumer confusion and stores popping up like they are regulated store, and more than that this a public safety issue where they are marketing to kids and it has to stop.”

Erkes is a spokesperson for Sunnyside Dispensary, a state-licensed and regulated cannabis dispensary that follows strict rules in order to do business. He said the corner stores and smoke shops selling similar high-inducing products do not have to follow the same playbook.

“I mean there are 800 pages of rules we need to follow and there shouldn’t be two sets of rules when it’s the same plant,” Erkes said.

If the Illinois House of Representatives votes to ban the unregulated products, that means shops like Old Town Smokes and Kicks will have to clear its shelves of much of its inventory. Many retailers risk being put out of business entirely.

“Just don’t close it,” said Ricardo Martinez, a smoke shop customer. “It’s much better than cigarettes, chemicals, it’s more on the natural side, so why close it? It seems like a money war.”

As a customer, Martinez said his life will be impacted in a major way if he can’t pop into the smoke shop or corner store and access the products both easily and cheaply.

It means having access to those products will be way harder, especially here in the state of Illinois. I don’t think it’s going to be good for the community,” he said.

Still, the FDA has reported a rise in concerns surrounding the products and adverse incidents. From Dec. 1, 2020, through Feb. 28, 2022, as many as 104 adverse events were reported in people who consumed Delta-8 THC products. That's in addition to the thousands of calls received by poison control centers surrounding the products.

Illinois lawmakers are expected to continue debating HB4293 late into Tuesday evening.

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