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The Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill today to make it a crime to sell to people younger than 21 products containing delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a chemical derived from hemp.

Delta-8 products, available in stores and online, include gummies, vapes, candy, cookies, and other varieties. Rep. Russell Bedsole, a Republican who is a captain in the Shelby County sheriff’s department, said the age restriction is long overdue. Bedsole and other lawmakers who spoke about the bill today said regulations are needed because of the ready availability of the products and because some are packaged to appeal to children.

Under the bill, selling the products to someone under 21 would be a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail. People under 21 who possess the products would be subject to a citation and a fine. The House passed the bill, SB66, by a vote of 105-0. It goes back to the Senate before it can get final approval.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings about products containing delta-8, saying they pose a serious health risk. The FDA said delta-8 has psychoactive and intoxicating qualities, the products have not been evaluated for safety, and some are sold with deceptive marketing practices, purporting to have therapeutic benefit.

The FDA said it received 104 reports of adverse events in patients who consumed delta-8 THC products from December 2020 through February 2022. Fifty-five percent of those incidents required evaluation by emergency medical services or hospital admission. The symptoms included hallucinations, vomiting, tremor, anxiety, dizziness, confusion, and loss of consciousness.

From January 2021 through February 2022, national poison control centers received 2,362 exposure cases of delta-8 THC products, the FDA said. Of those cases, 41% involved people under 18. Seventy percent required health care facility evaluation, and 8 percent of those cases required admission to a critical care unit.

The sponsor of the bill is Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, Melson sponsored the delta-8 bill last year, but it did not pass. Melson told last year that he saw a need for the legislation after seeing the unregulated products in convenience stores and gas stations.

The bill applies to products with delta-8 THC, delta-10 THC, and other “psychoactive cannabinoids” derived from hemp. Hemp, like marijuana, is a form of the cannabis plant. According to the FDA, delta-8 THC is one of over 100 cannabinoids produced naturally by the cannabis plant. Delta-9 THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Hemp has lower delta-9 THC than marijuana.

Melson also sponsored the bill in 2021 that legalized medical marijuana in Alabama. The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission is reviewing license applications for companies that want to grow, process, transport, test, and sell medical marijuana. Products are expected to be available late this year or in 2024.

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