TOPEKA — They’re here in Kansas. CBD products with a bit of that oh-so-taboo THC in them. To vape, to put under your tongue.
THC is the chemical that puts the high in medical and recreational cannabis. Polls show most Americans want it legalized. Kansas is one of a small handful of states with the most restrictive laws against it.
Other vendors who also believe small amounts of THC became legal in Kansas on July 1 geared up to sell, then got cold feet after a hemp advocacy group posted a warning from a high-level Kansas Bureau of Investigation official on its Facebook page.
“Full spectrum is not legal,” says the statement, which Kansans for Hemp organizer Kelly Rippel says he received from KBI executive officer Katie Whisman. “CBD isolate or CBD containing no other controlled substance is what was carved out as legal.”
Full spectrum commonly refers to CBD products that include THC. (Although, buyer beware: Sometimes products labeled “full spectrum” don’t actually contain THC, and sometimes those labeled “THC-free” actually do have it.)
Multiple people who work in the CBD industry said sales of CBD with THC in it are now common across Kansas. The Kansans News Service easily found it for purchase within state lines.
National retailer CBD American Shaman prepped its website to start selling full spectrum to Kansans starting July 1, but postponed that plan when Whisman’s quote surfaced in late June. It remains hopeful the KBI is wrong.
“We’re just not gonna take the chance until it’s really clear,” CEO Vince Sanders said. “It’s all crazy … It is what it is, which is what we deal with in the world that we live.”
His Kansas City-based company sells CBD across the country and has become accustomed to an ever-shifting maze of state-by-state regulations.
“We know the legislators’ intent was to have full-spec oil,” he said. “The revisors (lawyers at the Kansas Statehouse who draw up bills for lawmakers) are writing exactly what the intent was. ... We expected to have (a letter of legislative intent) by last Friday. We still don't have it. So again, we expect it any time.”
A KBI spokeswoman told the Kansas News Service Friday it knows vendors are confused, and that clarification is needed.
“We are currently reviewing the issue, but don’t have specific guidance to offer at this time,” she wrote.
Sen. Mary Ware, who owns two CBD American Shaman stores in Wichita, says she understood the law to legalize full-spectrum products. A revisor and a Department of Agriculture attorney both assured her that was the case, she said, and she has requested clarification from Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s Office.
But a Department of Agriculture spokeswoman said in an email that agency doesn’t directly regulate CBD oil or how it’s used or manufactured, “including determining what the legal level of THC may be.”
“As we read the bill, [full-spectrum CBD] is not directly addressed,” she said.
The bill, she said, “does not regulate end products (other than to prohibit by criminal penalty the production of some specific products) created from hemp.”
“Our intent [was to allow] the growth of industrial hemp and the production of CBD oil,” she continued, “but that all products must meet whatever legal requirement[s] that were already in place.”
The legal requirement already in place for CBD bans THC.
She ultimately referred questions on THC’s legal status in CBD products to the attorney general.
Contacted by the Kansas News Service, Schmidt’s office would not answer the question.
“We have not yet received a request for a legal opinion on this issue,” a spokesman said, and did not answer follow-up questions about whether Schmidt had received an inquiry from Ware.
A Statehouse revisor who worked on the hemp bill wouldn’t comment on whether he had told the senator that full-spectrum products would become legal. He said he had not been approached by anyone seeking a letter clarifying legislative intent.
Revisors can’t answer questions from the public about legal analysis, he said. That includes the Kansas News Service’s question about whether HB 2167 legalized full spectrum CBD products.
How we got here
In 2018, Kansas legalized CBD, or cannabidiol. Vendors could only sell CBD without THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol.
Both substances come from cannabis — the plant with high-THC varieties used for medical and recreational pot, and low-THC varieties used for CBD and hemp products.
CBD legalization led to a flourishing market for the stuff in everything from tinctures and slow-release skin patches to soda drinks and gummy bears.
Ideally, though, vendors want to offer the full-spectrum, THC-laced options, too. Those proved popular in other states. Some sellers say they come with additional health benefits. (The vast majority of claims regarding health benefits of CBD with or without THC have not passed federal vetting.)
This year, Kansas lawmakers passed two laws that relate to cannabis or its extracts.
One was the industrial hemp bill that some vendors believe now allows them to sell full-spectrum CBD with some THC.
The other was Claire and Lola’s law, a narrow bill that may assist certain people if they ever find themselves facing prosecution for possessing some products currently illegal in the state of Kansas.
But do bottles of CBD with small amounts of THC (up to 0.3%, a definition related to federal law) that some vendors now consider fair game even get anyone high?
“You could drink a gallon of the oil in order to get enough THC to get high. You’d be so sick to your stomach and still not be high,” said Ware, the senator who owns CBD shops.
Mallory Loflin, a psychiatry professor at the University of California-San Diego who researches medical cannabis and CBD, had a different take. For some people, a bottle would do it.
“Especially a novice user without much experience with the plant,” she said. “They’re definitely going to be feeling intoxicated.”
But if they chug that much fatty oil, Loflin says, diarrhea is the other effect that likely awaits them.
Celia Llopis-Jepsen reports on consumer health and education for the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @Celia_LJ or email her at celia (at) kcur (dot) org. The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on the health and well-being of Kansans, their communities and civic life.
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