A ‘shell’ bill to regulate Delta-8 THC rushes through Kentucky House

Speaker Pro Tem David Meade decries Beshear administration’s lack of action to regulate the intoxicating substance

By: - March 9, 2023 6:20 pm

Kentucky was a top producer of hemp before World War II. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

FRANKFORT — After a court decision last year legalized an intoxicating compound derived from hemp, a bill to regulate Delta-8 THC sped through the House of Representatives on Thursday. 

Delta-8 THC can get a user “high” similar to the Delta-9 THC compound found in marijuana. Some hemp farmers have been trying to find a market for extra CBD-rich hemp by synthetically converting it into Delta-8 THC, and it’s seen growing popularity across the state being sold in edibles and vapes. 

Katie Moyer, president of the Kentucky Hemp Association.

The Kentucky Hemp Association sued the state in 2021 after a series of police raids of Delta-8 THC products, arguing Delta-8 THC was made legal under a past federal farm bill. A Boone County Circuit Court judge sided with the association last year, and the president of the association says it’s now advocating for “common sense rules” on the sale and production of the compound. 

“We have sort of a ‘wild west’ situation. It’s a gray area. Delta-8 is being sold around the state, and it’s being sold in gas stations, health food stores,” Katie Moyer, president of the Kentucky Hemp Association, said. “But it’s coming from ‘who knows where.’ We’re not surely getting it from Kentucky producers who are growing it here, who we can go visit their store, their facility.” 

House Bill 544, sponsored by Rep. Rebecca Raymer, R-Morgantown, was as of Wednesday a bill making technical language changes related to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Such bills making only minor language changes are often known as “shell” bills, a procedural maneuver that allows a lawmaker to substitute the language of a bill and move forward with said legislation past the filing deadline for bills. 

Rep. Rebecca Raymer

The new bill language —  which the Kentucky Hemp Association supports — directs the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to immediately begin the process of regulating Delta-8 THC and “other hemp-derived substances.”

Among the regulations the legislation directs the cabinet to develop: prohibiting anyone younger than 21 from buying or possessing Delta-8 THC products, ensuring Delta-8 THC is produced in Kentucky and is  properly tested, and requiring a standard of labeling for the products. 

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear issued an executive order in November 2022 directing the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to begin regulating Delta-8 THC following the Boone County court ruling. 

The House passed the bill, 97-0, Thursday afternoon. 

Speaker Pro Tem David Meade, R-Stanford, a co-sponsor of the bill, said that since Beshear issued that executive order “there has been nothing done” in regards to regulating the intoxicating compound. 

“I’ve had numerous folks in our school systems and my local sheriff asking for us to do something about this issue,” Meade said. “What’s sad is that we have to do this in order to tell the governor to do the right thing and go ahead and push the regs forward.”

A spokesperson for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The Kentucky Hemp Association had opposed a bill last year that would have banned Delta-8 THC products, which ultimately died in the House. 

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Liam Niemeyer
Liam Niemeyer

Liam covers government and policy in Kentucky and its impacts throughout the Commonwealth for the Kentucky Lantern. He most recently spent four years reporting award-winning stories for WKMS Public Radio in Murray.