Changes in laws and attitudes around hemp products have been swift over the last decade. CBD oil for pain relief and CBD creams are on the market alongside smokable hemp products. Hemp products like CBD boast a range of potential health benefits, but some states are concerned and are enacting legislation banning smokable hemp products.

Parents and students need to be aware of several things to stay up to date with both science and legislation. Keeping up to date, in turn, ensures that students stay safe and that parents stay informed.

What is a Smokable Hemp Product?

To make matters complicated, there is no one standard legal definition or approach to “smokable hemp products,” or even “hemp products” in general. There is no one universal definition for what makes raw hemp material “processed” enough to be a “product,” and states are confused. Additionally, even the word smokable might be debated, as new technologies to vape CBD or THC are on the market. The clarity in this regard is limited.

For the purposes of this educational article, let’s define smokable hemp product as a “processed hemp product that can be smoked or inhaled.” The actual legal definitions and debates, however, focus more on the THC content than on the specific form of hemp. With that aside, let’s consider THC and CBD—the two main natural compounds in cannabis--and how they factor into states’ smokable hemp product debate.

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THC versus CBD

THC and CBD are found in hemp products, and both have the same molecular structure of 30 hydrogen atoms, 2 oxygen atoms, and 21 carbon atoms. These natural compounds each affect the body very differently due to subtle differences in how those atoms fit together in their molecular structure.

THC is the dominant psychoactive component in hemp and is responsible for the “high” feeling. This sensation includes feeling relaxed, creative, euphoric, and more sensitive to tastes, light, smells, colors, and sounds.

CBD, however, does not produce any sort of “high.” Instead, it’s been found to bind to the brain’s receptors that help regulate pain, emotion, and memory and with potentially highly beneficial results. Currently, CBD is used to help manage pain, has been found potentially effective in managing arthritis and inflammation, and has proven useful in treating insomnia and anxiety in large case studies. Athletes are turning to CBD in huge numbers, as well, with many using CBD cream or CBD oil for pain relief.

In sum, THC and CBD are the two primary compounds in hemp products. Hemp’s benefits can be felt in a variety of forms such as topical, inhaled, edible, and tinctures.

Federal changes leave states with a decision

Hemp products can yield a wide range of benefits and products, but some states are concerned and want to regulate the kinds of hemp in their markets.

Until recently, hemp products were illegal across the U.S. However, we have seen waves of legislation legalizing smokable hemp products.

Additionally, the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 legalized the production and transportation of hemp on a federal level for hemp with less than 0.3% THC content. This opened up the conversation around hemp and THC on the state level.

It’s about the THC levels

This leaves states and their inhabitants with some interesting decisions. What are they going to legalize? What levels of THC in hemp products will they allow? Will they allow smokable hemp products that contain both THC and CBD? What about pure hemp oil for pain relief?

Despite the potential benefits and the range of natural effects possible from smokable hemp products, some states are understandably concerned about the high-inducing quality of THC. This is driving them to attempt to craft definitions of “smokable hemp products” so that they can regulate them. As a result, some states have turned to the federally mandated THC levels to help them make a decision.

Let’s look at some examples.

  • South Carolina has deemed that all hemp-derived products (processed hemp products that do not include seeds or raw plant matter) with more than the federally mandated level of THC require regulation distinct from raw hemp regulation. This is applicable to products containing “one or more hemp-derived cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD).” As a result, South Carolina is currently jumping through different legislative hoops to figure out how it’s going to handle hemp products in the future, with many smokable hemp products and other products being seized.
  • Kentucky prohibits the sale of hemp cigarettes and a number of other smokable hemp products.
  • North Carolina is considering whether to criminalize all smokable hemp.
  • Louisiana recently passed a law prohibiting the processing or sale of any smokable hemp.

This list is far from exhaustive. In this surge of legislation, it’s important for parents and students to stay up to date with ever-changing laws and legal definitions. Students don’t need an accidental criminal record, especially if smokable hemp is legal in their home state, but not where they are going to college.