Louisiana’s legislative auditor has released a report confirming that the state health agency approved hundreds of consumable hemp products that should be illegal because they exceed the legal limit of the chemical that creates a high, triggering confusion, lawsuits and new proposed legislation.
Lawmakers, regulators and entrepreneurs in the exploding hemp industry are grappling with which consumable products from gummies to inhalables to frozen drinks containing THC are legal and how they can be packaged and sold, especially in relation to serving sizes.
THC is the chemical that creates a high or euphoria and is often credited with helping manage pain, stress and insomnia, among other conditions. Hemp’s THC levels are typically lower than in its cannabis-cousin marijuana.
Among the audit’s findings:
∎ The Louisiana Department of Health’s list of registered products included 36 intended for inhalation, such as vape pens, that are prohibited by law;
∎ The agency inadvertently removed prohibited dosage methods from its rules in May 2022;
∎ At least 198 edible products exceed the 8-milligram THC per serving requirement, 52 of which the agency approved after the law setting the limit became effective.
Officials with LDH admitted as much during an emergency hearing of the House Health and Welfare Committee in February.
“We’re trying to get to a good spot where these products aren’t potent,” said Mike Vidrine, the agency’s sanitarian services director. “The first go-round it seems like industry found a way around us. Industry finds a way around our regulations sometimes.”
Since then two lawsuits have been filed by hemp industry entrepreneurs fighting any effort to remove any of the previously approved products from the shelves.
Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commissioner Ernest Legier insists he has been lenient in enforcement, telling USA Today Network he prefers to wait until after the two-month Legislative Session that began April 10, where he believes lawmakers will change and clarify current laws.
“I believe it’s in the best interest to all involved to see what the legislative intent will be,” Legier said recently.