Proposed THC and Delta-8 Regulations Could Impact Smoke Shops in Memphis and Shelby County

In 2023, Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee signed Senate Bill 0378 into law, ushering in regulations for specific hemp products such as Delta-8 and Delta-10. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is tasked with defining the specifics of these regulations. However, a draft of proposed new rules released by the department in December 2023 has raised concerns within the hemp industry. If implemented, these regulations would require products to contain less than 0.3 percent THC in all its forms, including THCA and Delta-8 THC. This could potentially render many hemp and THC products currently available in the state illegal, causing significant challenges for smoke shops in Memphis and Shelby County.

Implications for Smoke Shops:

Shelby County, in particular, is home to numerous smoke shops, and the proposed regulations could have far-reaching consequences for their businesses. According to Jose Perez, the manager of Tobacco Zone in Cordova, there are approximately 1,600 smoke shops in the county. Perez expressed deep concerns about the potential impact of the new regulations on his business, stating that it could result in the loss of at least 40% of their inventory, which primarily consists of Delta-8 products such as gummies, flower, and disposable vapes.

Current Tennessee law permits the sale of hemp products with less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC, but the proposed regulations would encompass a broader spectrum of THC-related compounds. State Senator Richard Briggs, who sponsored the original Delta-8 bill granting the Department of Agriculture authority in this matter, justified the regulations as a measure to protect the public from the risks associated with unregulated Delta-8 products. He cited instances of people being hospitalized due to such products and expressed a particular concern for the well-being of children who might mistake them for candy or gummy bears.

Divided Opinions and Concerns:

While Senator Briggs sees these regulations as a safeguard against potential dangers, some members of the smoke shop industry worry that they may inadvertently worsen the situation. Muhaid Alhassen, a smoke shop manager, is concerned that stricter regulations could drive consumers to the illicit market, thereby potentially increasing crime rates in Memphis.

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Senator Briggs acknowledged this concern, emphasizing that individuals who choose to deal with illegal drugs will have to face the consequences of their choices. However, it remains a contentious issue with varying viewpoints.

Awaiting Finalization and Potential Changes:

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture has yet to issue a comment on the matter. The proposed rules are not expected to be finalized until July, providing time for further discussion and potential changes within the Tennessee State Legislature. As the debate continues, it remains to be seen how the final regulations will impact the hemp and THC product industry, as well as the operations of smoke shops in Memphis and Shelby County.

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