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Virginia’s new hemp law faces federal lawsuit

hemp plants
Crixell Matthews
VPM News File
Many hemp products available in Virginia attempt to skirt the law preventing Delta-9 sales by chemically extracting other intoxicating compounds, like Delta-8 and Delta-10 THC, that can still get users high.

It’s the latest chapter in a fight over how the state should handle hemp and cannabis products.

Critics of Virginia’s new law cracking down on intoxicating hemp products filed a federal lawsuit last week challenging its legality — and asking a judge to suspend enforcement.

The complaint from Northern Virginia Hemp and Agriculture, North Carolina–based manufacturer Franny’s Farmacy and individual Virginia hemp user Rose Lane contends the law violates federal interstate commerce laws and the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill.

The lawsuit names the commonwealth of Virginia, Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Attorney General Jason Miyares, the Virginia Board of Agriculture and Consumer Services and local prosecutors as defendants.

The complaint argues the federal Farm Bill — which legalized hemp nationally — only specifically capped the limits on the primary intoxicating cannabinoid known as Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Many hemp products available in Virginia attempt to skirt that law by chemically extracting other intoxicating compounds, like Delta-8 and Delta-10 THC, that still get users high.

“The Commonwealth does not have authority to re-define any part of the federal definition of hemp as it has done in SB 903,” the complaint says.

General Assembly lawmakers passed SB 903 earlier this year as an attempt to crack down on the products after a surge in calls to state poison control centers. Critics of the products said they were too often winding up in the hands of children and sometimes contained uneven doses or even heavy metals.

Many members of the hemp industry said they supported more regulations rather than an outright ban, which they said also swept up non-intoxicating products.

The products proliferated across the state, particularly in the wake of a 2021 law that legalized possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and older. Democratic lawmakers had planned to set up a retail marketplace the following year, but that effort ran aground after Gov. Glenn Youngkin won the governor’s mansion.

Youngkin has declined to commit to legalizing cannabis sales during his term. In the meantime, intoxicating hemp and some cannabis products have continued to be sold online and in some Virginia stores.

Chloe Smith, a spokesperson for Miyares, said she could not comment on pending litigation.

“As the Attorney General has previously stated, he is dedicated to combating the rise of accidental THC poisonings in children, and is concerned about the rise of dangerous, counterfeit THC-infused products marketed towards our vulnerable youth,” Smith said.

Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.