DeWine calls for quick action to regulate intoxicating hemp

Gov. Mike DeWine urged the Ohio General Assembly to work quickly Wednesday to regulate intoxicating hemp to prevent its sale to children.

Rogue chemists are modifying hemp, which is a legal, nonintoxicating plant, to extract a compound called Delta 8 THC that causes a high similar to marijuana, according to a release from the governor’s office.

The intoxicating hemp is sold in stores across the state as candy, cereal and other products that are attractive to children. Because intoxicating hemp products are not regulated, Ohio law does not prevent its sale to children, the release stated.

“The current loophole that allows these dangerous products to be sold to children needs to be closed as soon as possible. Right now, Sen. Steve Huffman (R, Tipp City) is working on a bill to address this, and once it is introduced, I encourage members of the Ohio General Assembly to act quickly to pass it,” said DeWine. “These products are marketed to kids and are made to look like their favorite candy and treats. With no regulation and wide availability, it is all too easy for kids to get them.”

There has been at least 257 reports of Delta 8 poisoning in Ohio over the last three years, including 102 reported in 2023.

Of those last year, 40 involved children younger than 6. Of those, 90% required emergency care or were hospitalized after ingesting the intoxicating hemp, according to data from the Ohio Poison Control Center.

Delta 8 products can have a significant affect on young, developing brains, said Dr. Gary Wenk, emeritus professor of behavioral neuroscience at The Ohio State University and The Ohio State University Medical Center.

“Children have difficulty paying attention in class; they become emotionally unstable; they have difficulty learning things; they stop attending classes; they start acting out at home. The parents know something is wrong, but if (their child) is just eating ‘cereal’ in their bedroom, it’s easy for them to hide,” said Wenk. “That’s why this is a crisis, it’s because it is a perfectly legal compound that does a great deal of well-documented harm.”

To demonstrate how easily youth can purchase intoxicating hemp, Ohio Department of Public Safety Director Andy Wilson asked two 15-year-olds to purchase Delta 8 gummy candy at a gas station in Clark County.

“Their instructions were not to be tricky and not to try to act older than they were. There was no doubt in looking at them that they were clearly underage,” said Wilson. “In under 10 minutes and within three miles of their high school, the kids walked into a BP gas station and purchased THC gummies with no questions asked.”

Under current law, both the purchase and sale of the item are legal.

DeWine urges retailers to pull intoxicating hemp products from shelves until they are regulated to prevent harm to children.

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