Hemp gummies purchased at a smoke shop in East Baton Rouge Parish on March 5, 2023, are currently in a legal gray area because they contain a total of 30 milligrams of THC per package. (Photo credit: Wes Muller/Louisiana Illuminator)
State House lawmakers advanced a proposal Thursday that would tweak Louisiana’s regulations on high-inducing consumable hemp products. The bill takes a more measured approach than one currently moving through the Senate and would keep recreational THC legal in the state.
House Bill 605, sponsored by House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, received unanimous approval in the House Health and Welfare Committee. The bill tightens some of the safety and packaging guardrails around consumable hemp products that contain THC, which is the psychoactive compound in cannabis.
Schexnayder filed the bill to correct problems found in his 2022 legislation that legalized THC-laced hemp products that pack potent highs. That law allowed the sale of over-the-counter edibles such as gummies, candy bars and soft drinks that can contain up to 8 milligrams of THC per serving.
When he presented the legislation to his colleagues last year, he told them it would not legalize any products that can cause intoxication, saying it would “take a truckload of this stuff to get high.”
While hemp farmers claim smoking a truckload of raw plants wouldn’t get someone high, that is not the case for other products that contain concentrated doses of THC extracted from the plants. An 8 milligram serving of THC, such as in a single gummy or candy bar, is more than enough to affect most people. Still, proponents consider THC much safer than other drugs and even alcohol because of its very low risk of overdose and addiction.
Part of the issue with the 2022 law is that it limited servings to 8 milligrams of THC but did not limit the number of servings per unit or product. The Louisiana Department of Health approved the sale of products with multiple servings of 8 milligrams. For example, some manufacturers created individual gummies with 15 milligrams of THC and labeled them as two servings.
The new bill would clarify that a single unit such as an individual gummy or a canned beverage shall not contain more than one serving of THC and prohibits units from being scored or separated in order to produce single servings.
It would also require manufacturers to submit photos of their products to the health department for approval, prohibit any products with synthetic compounds and limit the sale of products to adults 21 and older.
“We want a natural product,” Schexnayder said. “We don’t want a man-made product on the shelf.”
None of the proposed changes in the bill would stop the sale of all intoxicating hemp products. That would likely require repealing the core of Schexnayder’s 2022 law. Nevertheless, the bill could cause problems for businesses that have large inventories or investments in certain products that would soon be outlawed under the proposal.
LDH Secretary Stephen Russo said his agency has identified just over 700 products that could become illegal if Schexnayder’s proposal becomes law.
Hemp business owners who testified Thursday requested small changes but were overall in support of the bill, especially in light of a Senate proposal that would usher in much stricter THC limitations and prohibit the sale of most intoxicating hemp products.
Eric Becker, a former prosecutor who now sells hemp products in Jefferson Parish, told the committee that Louisiana’s current laws are already some of the strictest in the country.
Schexnayder told fellow legislators they created 3,000 new businesses in Louisiana through his 2022 hemp law and pointed out the industry’s tax revenue is dedicated to early childhood education.
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