BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — The Louisiana Legislative Auditor determined that some hemp consumables that exceed state dosing standards and vape products are being sold in Louisiana. The LLA reviewed the state health department’s registration of consumable hemp products to determine if the agency meets state laws.
The Louisiana Department of Health says staffing issues have contributed to oversight flaws, and they want clarification from the legislature on some processes before changing how they approve products.
The current law states that consumable hemp products sold must be registered and get approval from the Louisiana Department of Health. The audit reports that there are 2,564 registered consumable hemp products as of March 16, 2023.
An audit was conducted after receiving a request from the state legislature. New regulations for “adult-use” consumable hemp products were passed in last year’s legislative session limiting the amount of THC allowed in one package to .5 milligrams. However, lawmakers said products sold were found to have a higher dosage.
Here are the audit’s findings
According to the audit, laws about consumable hemp products have “evolved” since enacted in 2019 and the legislature modified the maximum amount of THC.
In 2019, the law said products could have a maximum delta-9 THC concentration of 0.3%. In 2021, new legislation increased the maximum total THC concentration, including delta-8 and delta-9, to 1%. And in 2022, a law passed said products could have a maximum of 8 milligrams of THC per serving.
“These multiple changes, coupled with the fact that CHP is an emerging industry in Louisiana, present challenges to regulators such as LDH,” the audit stated. “According to CHP industry stakeholders, the lack of clarity for what products are allowed and the costs associated with changing regulations are a challenge. Industry stakeholders also said they have struggled with receiving timely approvals from LDH which has affected them financially.”
Auditors said LDH’s process for registering consumable hemp products had multiple issues, including registering vape pens with consumable hemp, which is illegal. This happened because LDH was only required to approve product labels and did not see images of the product during the registration process, the audit said.
These products are still on store shelves despite an emergency rule that would let them remove products that went into effect on Jan. 20, 2023, according to the audit.
The state health department “inadvertently removed prohibited dosage methods from its rules in May 2022,” auditors said.
Findings reveal that LDH registered 198 edible consumable hemp products containing over the maximum 8-milligram THC dosage per serving requirement. LDH told auditors that 52 of these products were registered because the new maximum wasn’t enforced until Aug. 1, 2022.
Auditors said products that do not comply with the law remain on LDH’s list of registered products because the agency hasn’t implemented its process to remove consumable hemp products. The state health department told auditors the delay in process implementation is because it wanted to get feedback from the legislature first to make sure it was in line with the statute. LDH officials said they are waiting for direction from the legislature.
“As a result, the 36 CHPs intended for inhalation and the 198 edible CHPs that exceed the eight-milligram maximum are still on LDH’s list of registered products as of March 2023,” according to the audit.
At least another nine edible consumable hemp products were found by auditors to be over the maximum THC dosage. Auditors noted that they did not review LDH’s entire list of over 2,000 registered products.
The state health department said getting consumable hemp products reviewed and registered within 15 business days of submission has been affected by staffing issues. Auditors said state law requires LDH to employ a minimum of two full-time employees for the reviewing process.
“If LDH fails to notify the submitting party within 15 business days, the product may be sold from the day following the 15th business day until the submitting party receives final approval or denial from LDH,” according to the audit.
Click here to see the full audit.
State lawmakers will be considering several marijuana-related bills in the 2023 legislative session. Click here to read about the proposed bills.