Cannabis News of Note for the Week:

Politico Pro Cannabis: Tester Wants VA Bill included with SAFE Banking [paywalled newsletter, article text below]

Marijuana Moment: Schumer Meets With GOP Senators To Discuss Marijuana Legislation For New Congress

MJ Biz Daily: High cost of raising capital in marijuana industry expected to continue in 2023

Green Market Report: Twitter Eases up on Cannabis Marketing

Marijuana Moment: U.S. Senate Committee Approves Bipartisan Marijuana Research Bill Focused On Military Veterans With PTSD And Pain

Politico Pro Cannabis: DEA says THCO is a controlled substance (but Delta-8 isn’t) [paywalled, article text below]


Cannabis Reports of Note for the Week:

Harvard CAPS Harris Poll Finds Voters Want Less Regulation on Marijuana

The Senate VA Committee on Thursday approved a bill to expand research into medical uses of cannabis for veterans, and Chair Jon Tester (D-Mont.) hopes it will be included in a package of cannabis-related bills built around the SAFE Banking Act. That package, referred to as “SAFE Plus,” is still being discussed by Democrats and Republicans in talks organized by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Democrats involved in those conversations, however, wouldn’t reveal details about the negotiations — Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) both told Natalie on Thursday they couldn’t get into any specifics on what would or would not be included in a final package, though Booker said that he was getting good vibes from the conversation.

Republican-Democrat divide? The Republican cosponsor of the VA bill, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), was cooler on the idea of including VA research into a larger SAFE package.

“My view is you want to keep that clean,” Sullivan said.

Sen. Steve Daines (Mont.), the GOP sponsor of SAFE, also seemed lukewarm on the prospect.

“Anytime there’s a bill that starts to get some momentum here in Washington, everybody wants to jump on it,” Daines said on Thursday. “It’s not about the merits of that legislation or not; it’s what path gives us the best chances of getting an outcome.”


Politico Pro Cannabis: DEA says THCO is a controlled substance (but Delta-8 isn’t)

BY MONA ZHANG | 02/13/2023 05:45 PM EST
THCO, a compound that is growing in popularity in the intoxicating hemp-derived cannabinoid market, is a Schedule I controlled substance, the DEA said in a letter to a cannabis attorney on Monday.

The response contrasts to a similar letter the agency wrote about Delta-8 THC in 2021, which said that the compound was exempt from the Controlled Substances Act under the federal definition of hemp.

Unlike Delta-8 THC, THCO doesn’t occur naturally in the cannabis plant. However, Delta-8 THC occurs in such small amounts in the plant that consumer products are largely created by synthesizing the compound through a chemical conversion. The same conversion is used to produce THCO.

“The process [of conversion] with respect to the DEA is probably mostly irrelevant,” said Rod Kight, the attorney who received the letter from the DEA after requesting the information. Instead, the agency is more focused on defining whether a particular compound falls under the Controlled Substances Act.

The background: While Kight has been seen as an advocate for artificial cannabinoids after penning a position statement on Delta-8 THC for the Hemp Industries Association, he’s long been concerned about the legal status of compounds like THCO. The position statement made the case that Delta-8 THC is not a controlled substance and that the hemp industry should advocate for the safe production of those products.

Kight wrote a letter to the DEA in August 2022 about THCO, and wasn’t surprised by the agency’s answer.

“Delta-9-THCO and delta-8-THCO do not occur naturally in the cannabis plant and can only be obtained synthetically, and therefore do not fall under the definition of hemp,” the letter read.

Consumer demand for these novel cannabinoids pales in comparison to more well-known hemp derivatives like CBD and Delta-8 THC. But THCO has been gaining popularity in the niche consumer market that is chasing after the “latest and greatest” cannabinoid, Kight explained.

Confusing cannabinoids: But the DEA’s legal distinction between Delta-8 THC and THCO is already causing confusion. That’s because scientists are still discovering new cannabinoids in the under-researched plant. In addition, there’s no definitive resource for determining which cannabinoids are naturally occurring, Kight said.

These decisions can be difficult for the industry to follow. The DEA’s take on THCO as well as its determination that Delta-8 THC falls under the definition of hemp were communicated through private letters and not public guidance.

“It really puts the burden on the consumer and business,” said Michelle Bodian, an attorney for cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg. So far, the industry has been reacting to letters, FAQs and warnings — though little is codified in a way that could lend clarity to the industry, she explained.

Meanwhile, even though compounds like THCO may be seen by the DEA as a Schedule I substance, Kight is unaware of any DEA enforcement against such producers.

“The DEA does not have this as a high priority,” he said.