New rules in Virginia cracking down on hemp-derived cannabinoids will remain in place (for now) after a request for a preliminary injunction was rejected by a federal judge.
While hemp by legal definition is low in naturally occurring tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it can be created by manipulating another cannabinoid hemp can high levels of – cannabidiol (CBD). A loophole in federal law that focuses only on delta-9 THC has seen a rapid increase in intoxicating hemp-derived products containing other forms of THC, with states scrambling to grapple with the situation.
In an effort to get on top of the proliferation of delta-8 THC products in the state, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin signed SB 903 into law this year. Among other things, SB 903 makes it unlawful under the Virginia Consumer Protection Act to sell or offer for sale any substance intended for human consumption that contains a “synthetic” derivative of THC. It also sets tight limits on total THC levels in hemp foods.
The new rules, which came into effect on July 1, 2023, have had a huge impact on some hemp businesses and a lawsuit was filed in federal court in September challenging them. But there’s already been indication it will be a tough battle, with a request for a preliminary injunction associated with the lawsuit failing. U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema stated:
“On this record, defendants have demonstrated that delta-8 THC is a credible threat to the Virginia population, and there is a strong public interest in protecting the citizens of the commonwealth from substances like delta-8, including a vulnerable population, such as children, from hospitalizations and poisonings.”
Judge Brinkema concluded:
“Because plaintiffs have not demonstrated either a likelihood of success on the merits or irreparable unjust if SB 903 remains in effect, and because they have failed to show that the balance of equities and public interest weigh in favor of an injunction, their Motion for Preliminary Injunction will be denied by an Order to be issued with this Memorandum Opinion.”
The judge also noted while the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp production in the USA, this doesn’t stop states from passing their own related laws.