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Suppliers say marijuana bill could have unintended consequences for hemp industry

The bill would lump Delta-8 in the same category as marijuana. Which means, if the bill passes, Delta-8 would be regulated in the same way.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Legalizing marijuana in the Commonwealth of Kentucky is back on everyone's minds after a Louisville Democrat pre-filed legislation earlier this week.

State Representative Nima Kulkarni is proposing the state would tax it to generate revenue and let voters decide, while also decriminalizing the drug. The legislation would allow Kentuckians 21 and older to possess, use, buy and sell up to an ounce of cannabis without criminal penalty.

Though advocates say the bill is a big step in the right direction, it's had unintended consequences for some hemp suppliers.

The bill would lump Delta-8 in the same category as marijuana. This means, if the bill passes, Delta-8 would be regulated in the same way.

502 Hemp store owner Dee Dee Taylor said she's at a crossroad - support the bill that aligns with her beliefs on marijuana or fight for her business. She said it's a position she shouldn't be in.

"I truly believe it is a legal product - period, and that it's not a form of marijuana, that is from the hemp plant and that it's legal,” Taylor said.

She explained Delta-8 comes from hemp and CBD also comes from hemp. Taylor said producers use a natural process to convert the CBD into Delta-8. Ultimately, she said Delta-8 products are made and must be under the 0.3-percent THC limit.

RELATED: Delta-8 debate: Is it legal? Depends who you ask

It’s important to note that Delta-8 is different from Delta-9, which is found in marijuana. Delta-8 is a psychoactive product with less strength than Delta-9.

"So that's why I felt comfortable in the beginning to sell it because I did my homework,” Taylor said.

But that all changed when the Kentucky Department of Agriculture sent Delta-8 sellers a letter saying it's not hemp, and, therefore, illegal. It's a battle Taylor, and other sellers, have been battling in court.

"I think things are going to go well in our favor,” Taylor said. “We followed the law."

Still, this leaves Taylor unable to fully support the prefiled legalization because it labels Delta-8 as marijuana.

Bill co-author Patrick Dunnegan said he understands.

“Unfortunately, bills, when they're first introduced, are not going to be the most perfect bill and when it gets through the session it's going to be a completely different bill,” Dunnegan said. “It might be a bill I will not support when it finally gets to the governor's desk."

Dunnegan said he's going to work to get Delta-8 removed from the bill, and if the court makes its decision first - problem solved. Overall, he said years of advocacy is behind the bill and it's for all Kentuckians.

“This is a baby step process,” Dunnegan said. “We’re just trying to do something that’s beneficial to the state of Kentucky and we’re trying to do it the right way.”

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