MONTPELIER — An emergency rule limiting the amount of THC allowed in hemp/CBD products has provoked objections from business owners and producers.
Gabriel Gilman, general counsel for the Vermont Cannabis Control Board (CCB) explained at a public hearing that the emergency rule is separate from another “full hemp rule” being developed. The emergency rule lasts 180 days and will expire unless an emergency is proven to be addressed.
“I share your concern,” Gilman told several business owners on May 10.
Scott Sparks, owner of Vermont Hempicurean and Vermont Bud Barn in Brattleboro, is waiting for further clarification and to find out the intent of the emergency rule. He and others are hoping their input will inform the full rule.
“I hear people saying things like the intent was anything over 25 milligrams per dosage will no longer meet this lower limit,” he said in an interview last week. “I find that problematic.”
Vermont Hempicurean carries CBD capsules, some of which include 30, 50, 75 or 100 milligrams of THC.
“All of those would be ‘illegal’ for me to sell here in the store and ship across the country, which is 50 percent of my business,” he said.
He could be forced to sell the capsules at Vermont Bud Barn, where products have a 21 percent cannabis tax compared to the 7 percent sales tax in the other store. Customers also need to show identification to purchase anything at Vermont Bud Barn.
“I think that’s a nonstarter,” Sparks said. “I just don’t see people willing to do that for all kinds of reasons, and I don’t think it’s necessary.”
Sparks said he fully supports the problem the board is trying to solve. That’s trying to prevent the sale of Delta 10 and Delta 8 synthetic products, which are sold at gas stations and can produce a small high.
“It’s a different kind of thing,” Sparks said. “They are somewhat intoxicating. There hasn’t been a lot of regulation on it.”
Sparks said he doesn’t sell those products nor does he believe in them. However, he worries the new rule could be what he called “throwing the baby out with the bath water.”
“My take on the whole thing is Vermont created a unique and viable hemp marketplace five or six years ago,” he said. “I think it was vibrant and it was a success, and my store would be an example of that success, and they’re basically destroying it.”
Sparks said if it becomes illegal to sell 20 percent of his products and he’s no longer allowed to ship them either, he could be put out of business. Other states do allow for shipping the products he’s concerned about.
For now, Sparks said he’s not “freaking out yet.” He hasn’t made any changes yet.
“I think for a lot of us in the hemp world, we kind of knew this in the background but we didn’t expect this emergency,” he said. “I just don’t know how much thought was put into it — maybe a lot was — I don’t know.”
A petition started by Stephanie Waterman, co-owner of White River Growpro in White River Junction, circulated at a cannabis convention earlier this month and signed by Sparks says proposed regulations for CBD/hemp products would “make Vermont one of the strictest states in the nation for access to CBD.”
“This action will significantly increase the cost of Vermont made hemp products, reduce the ability of Vermont hemp producers to compete on the national market, and force many producers and the retailers who sell their products out of business,” the petition states.
Sparks said he’s seen an email from a staff member for the board indicating there could be an event Thursday to discuss the rule.
“I’m looking forward to it if it comes to fruition,” Sparks said. “I’m trying to understand what they’re trying to do.”
Keith Knapp, president of 802 Craft Cannabis LLC in Sudbury, has written to the board to propose changes to the rule.
“We should not be comparing hemp products to adult use cannabis products and seeing whether the basis of competition is fair. It is not and cannot be fair until adult use cannabis is legal nationwide, the IRS regulations change at the federal level, and inter-state sale is allowed,” Knapp wrote to the board. “The CCB should not be trying to create an equal playing field for hemp and adult use cannabis in Vermont as the federal government has already declared one legal and the other illegal. Do not punish hemp companies and consumers just because the fight for adult use cannabis at the federal level is not yet successful.”