Hot Hemp and Delta-8 Products in Virginia Lead to ‘Aggressive’ Fines

Virginia’s new stricter rules took effect, notably aimed at delta-8 THC sellers, leading to a round of warning letters sent out to retailers who were caught selling products out of compliance. Copycat treats, delta-8 THC products, and others were flagged.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) sent five noncompliance letters out on July 24, dishing out penalties ranging from $13,000 to $97,500.

Various violations were outlined in the letters with subsequent fines. “If the same violations are cited in a future inspection, the assessed civil penalties will increase,” VDACS said in the letters. However, the business owners will have an opportunity to pay a reduced fine of $10,000 if they agree to bring their stores into compliance and meet other conditions.

The move follows a new civil penalty structure that took effect July 1. Chapters 744 and 794 of the 2023 Acts of Assembly were amended to tackle D8 products and hot hemp.

“Effective July 1, 2023,” the rule reads. “When offered for retail sale, a hemp product may not exceed 0.3 percent total tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and may not have more than two milligrams of total THC per package unless the product’s cannabidiol (CBD) to THC ratio is at least 25 parts CBD for every one part THC. Total THC means all of the THC in a product, including delta-8 THC, delta-9 THC, and other THC isomers.”

Virginia Mercury reports that the largest fine to date was sent to a retailer located in Gate City in southwest Virginia, called Tobacco Discount. Thirty-six impermissible products were found by the VDACS, and inspectors said they found 27 had a concentration of intoxicating THC above the 0.3% legal limit. 

“This is just going way over the top, as we warned everyone,” Jason Amatucci, president of the Virginia Hemp Coalition, told Virginia Mercury. “They’re fining people and they’re being very aggressive about it.”

Others contained hemp-derived forms of THC or had labels displaying a “significant likeness” to mainstream snacks, particularly cereal bars with names like “Lucky Marshmellow” and “Berry Crunch.” 

Many of the products tested were gummies and cereal bars labeled as containing delta-8, a hemp-derived compound that can produce a high similar to marijuana.

Hemp Businesses Pull Out of Virginia

The latest round of letters and fines is pushing some hemp businesses in the state over the edge, prompting them to leave Virginia.

Redfern Market, one of those businesses, is a 10-employee hemp nursery and retail store in Caroline County, Virginia. 

“I guess I’ll have to go to North Carolina,” the owner of Redfern Market told Richmond Magazine. “We sell everything from dog treats to creams to gummies and chocolates. We have an array of products for different purposes, many for medicinal and wellness purposes, but 90% will have to be gone.”

Jason Amatucci of the Virginia Hemp Coalition agreed and described regulators as trying to shut down the state’s hemp industry. “They are trying to scare us and shut the industry down,” Amatucci said. “A lot of businesses are telling me that they’ve had enough, why operate in a state that treats you like trash?”

Virginia became the first in the South to legalize pot, and the 2018 Farm Bill opened the door for hemp, but critics say that Gov. Glenn Youngkin isn’t making things easy for the hemp industry. “It was very hard to communicate with the governor’s office when Youngkin came in. I couldn’t get a meeting with the lieutenant governor to talk with her about the industry. It was very hard,”  Amatucci said. “They just started coming after us.”

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