Oregon to Regulate Synthetic Cannabis Products, Setting National Precedent

    Beginning on July 1, 2022, the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC) will ban the sale of “artificially derived cannabinoids” in grocery stores and other unregulated markets. Oregon will be the first state to implement such a ban.

    Manufacturers of any cannabinoid product that is synthetically created or extracted, including delta-8 THC, will have to seek Food and Drug Administration approval. Beginning in July 2023, approved products can be sold at OLCC-licensed dispensaries.

    Licensed dispensaries will not be permitted to sell inhalable products like vapes or flower, restricting inventory to products formulated as edibles, tinctures, pills or topicals. OLCC will make an exception for artificially derived CBN, which can be sold in non-inhalable forms until July 2023, after which those products must also be FDA-approved.

    Manufacturers will be required to submit their products to the same testing process adult-use cannabis products undergo, to screen for pesticides and heavy metals. The OLCC would require synthetically derived cannabinoids to be labeled as such. 

    “Oregon is being perhaps overly cautious, and it’s paradoxical given the liberalizing trends for delta-9 cannabis and psychedelics,” Daniel Kruger, a researcher at the University of Michigan who has studied use of delta-8, told Filter

    Delta-8 is a psychoactive cannabinoid similar to the more commonly used active cannabinoid delta-9, but found in much smaller quantities. Because of this, delta-8 is often derived synthetically.

    “There are genuine concerns, like contamination with heavy metals,” Kruger said. “There have been incidents of labs finding illegally high levels of delta-9. That testing and accurate labeling and maintaining the purity of the product, that’s incredibly important.”

    Numerous states have considered imposing restrictions on hemp-derived products.

    OLCC Hemp & Processing Compliance Specialist Steven Crowley told Filter that current testing methods aren’t suited for synthetically derived products, and that those products are already checked for pesticides and heavy metals.

    Some product sellers are already opposing the ban, accusing the OLCC of regulatory overreach.

    In 2018, President Trump signed into law the “Farm Bill” that legalized hemp, defined as cannabis plants with under 0.3 percent THC by weight. Delta-8, which is derived from help, is not a controlled substance, and in May a federal appeals court determined it is legal. That same month, the FDA sent its first warning letters to delta-8 manufacturers, alleging misleading marketing claims.

    Numerous states have considered imposing restrictions on hemp-derived products like delta-8. In Maryland and Minnesota, those products cannot be sold to anyone under 21. The precedent set in Oregon may create momentum for regulatory changes in other states now, too.

    In April, a Kansas retailer selling hemp extracts was raided and shut down by the sheriff’s office. He simply moved his store 30 miles away, but is also suing for damages.



    Photograph via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    • Alexander is Filter’s staff writer. He writes about the movement to end the War on Drugs. He grew up in New Jersey and swears it’s actually alright. He’s also a musician hoping to change the world through the power of ledger lines and legislation. Alexander was previously Filter‘s editorial fellow.

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