WOOD COUNTY, Wis. (WSAW) – The Wood County Board of Supervisors has passed an ordinance that requires people to show proof of age 21 to purchase intoxicating hemp products, such as delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), in Wood County.
The order went into effect on August 23. It also limits the proximity in which these products can be sold near youth-serving organizations and other youth-friendly venues.
“We wanted this ordinance to focus on preventing substance use in youth,” said Jacob Wagner of the Wood County Health Department.
Marijuana and hemp are both cannabis plants, but industrial hemp contains 0.3% or less of the psychoactive compound, THC, and marijuana has higher levels of THC. Following the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill which legalized industrial hemp nationwide, a loophole was created which made legal any other intoxicating chemicals in the cannabis plant except for a maximum 0.3% delta-9 THC. “Delta-8 THC is said to be less potent than delta-9 THC,” Wagner explained, “but products sold in this area are chemically formulated concentrates that cause very similar effects to delta-9 due to their power.
In the spring of 2022, Healthy People Wood County’s substance use prevention team, IMPACT, conducted a community test for delta-8 THC.
“Our volunteers have found nerd ropes, gummy lifesavers, pop rocks, and a variety of other kid-friendly candies and snacks, all of which contain alarming levels of delta-8 THC,” Wagner shared. “Not only were the types of products alarming, but the way they were sold was also concerning. Some stores have delta-8 products right next to candy and gum displays, or right at a child’s eye level at checkouts, and there were many inconsistencies among retailers when we asked how old you had to have to buy these products.
School districts have expressed concerns about the number of students vaping THC at school.
Craig Broeren, Superintendent of Wisconsin Rapids Public Schools, said, “Based on recent trends, it appears that students are less likely to use nicotine in vaping devices; we are seeing a shift almost entirely to THC products that could legally be sold to students at gas stations, vape shops, or grocery stores across the state.
Wisconsin currently has no regulations in place for Delta-8 THC, and even marijuana advocacy groups, such as NORML, warn consumers against using unregulated Delta-8 THC products.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health alert in 2021 regarding the increased availability of cannabis products containing delta-8 THC and the potential for adverse effects due to insufficient labeling of products containing THC and cannabidiol (CBD). Similarly, the United States Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings due to increased reports of adverse events, marketing appealing to children, and contamination concerns from manufacturing methods.
“Our hope is that not only will we ban young people from purchasing these products from area retailers, but that it will spark a conversation and raise awareness of the risks these products pose to public health,” Wagner added. “Several community partners told us that something had to be done because kids don’t ask what they’re using and adults don’t always know how to talk to youth about substance use. Hopefully retailers now feel more confident in refusing a sale to anyone under 21.
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