Colorado Limits On Hemp Worry Parents Of CBD Kids

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Last week, as Colorado lawmakers weighed whether to advance legislation that could limit both intoxicating and non-intoxicating hemp products, they heard stories from local parents and caregivers about how CBD helped change — and in some cases save — their children’s lives.

Rachel Salmesky, who moved to Colorado in 2013, described how her then-seventeen-month-old daughter, Maggie, suffered from hundreds of seizures a day before finally finding a solution in Charlotte’s Web CBD products.

With Maggie by her side in a wheelchair, Salmesky told legislators at the April 18 Senate Finance Committee hearing that she moved here specifically for the CBD. But under proposed guidelines for a new Senate bill, access to the product could be severely limited by stricter package and dosage limits.

“When we learned of Charlotte’s Web, we had a choice to make: We could give her a chance at life or we could let her die,” Salmesky said. “The truth of the matter is that we will still most likely bury our daughter. However, without access to this reliable, trusted hemp, there’s no doubt that her three younger brothers would never have had the chance to meet her, and this would be an empty wheelchair next to us.”

Colorado Senate Bill 23-271 — which is being sponsored by Republican Senator Kevin Van Winkle of Highlands Ranch and Senator Dylan Roberts, a Democrat from Avon — seeks to put more regulations in place for “intoxicating hemp products.” But the legislators also want to introduce an amendment to put package and dosage limits on non-intoxicating products as well, should the bill continue to advance.

“I think it is the intent of both the sponsors, if this bill moves to third reading, to have some upper-level package limit or container limit for the non-intoxicating products,” Roberts told the Finance Committee. “That is our intention. … We just didn’t find an agreement with all the various stakeholders by the time this bill was in committee.”

Hundreds of millions of dollars in unregulated and untaxed products are sold annually without ID checks, purchase limits or safety restrictions, the pols say, which is one of the main reasons they’re pushing for tighter restrictions.

Three amendments to SB 271 were passed on April 18: one to create labeling and testing requirements for hemp products that mirrors similar laws for marijuana; another to regulate hemp that has more than 1.75 milligrams of THC per serving, with an exemption for tinctures; and a final provision that gets rid of “safe harbor” protections. The legislation now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee to be heard on April 24.

If left in SB 271, the “safe harbor” protections would have allowed hemp products that are banned from being sold or distributed in Colorado — namely synthesized products — to be sold and distributed in other states while being manufactured and stored in Colorado.

The Senate Finance Committee unanimously passed the first two amendments — creating more labels and testing for hemp products and applying THC regulations, with 1.75 milligrams being the proposed limit instead of 2.5 milligrams. A fourth amendment that would have raised the age limit to purchase hemp products from 18 to 21 failed by a vote of 4-3.

“If it’s not an intoxicating product and there’s no intoxicating properties, why ban someone under 18 from all hemp-based products, like body lotions, back pain lotions?” said Van Winkle, who still voted yes for raising the age limit, with the idea of changing the amendment in the future.

Other committee members said the requirement would be “too broad.”

Ahead of the hearing, Salmesky was joined by other parents with disabled children who testified about the importance of CBD products such as Charlotte’s Web, which is named for Charlotte Figi — a young girl with Dravet Syndrome who used medical marijuana for seizures and helped catalyze support for CBD. (Figi passed away in 2020; her parents said it was likely from COVID-19.)

Salmesky told lawmakers that her daughter saw a reduction in seizures from 500 a day to fewer than 25 a day. She didn’t specify what prompted the seizures.

Speaking to Westword on April 21, Charlotte’s Web co-founder Jared Stanley said he believes that the proposed package limits on non-intoxicating hemp products by senators Roberts and Van Winkle “would decimate the hemp CBD industry in Colorado, as no company could operate with these kinds of restrictions.”

While parents weren’t worried about losing any particular CBD or Charlotte’s Web product just yet, Stanley noted that the blanket regulations and proposed amendment on non-intoxicating hemp products could one day cut off many people from treatment.

“It’s not a question of what products are of concern,” he said. “This does not affect Charlotte’s Web, but rather the industry as a whole.”

Stanley added that Charlotte’s Web was “grateful” that senators Roberts and Van Winkle at least listened to the parents and provided an exemption on tinctures, or concentrated liquid extracts, which are one of the most commonly used hemp products for children. The original amendment could have had “a devastating impact on our most vulnerable CBD consumer population” had it included tinctures, according to Stanley.

Truman Bradley, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, a national collective of professionals in the cannabis industry, tells Westword that the main goal of the amended legislation is to “eliminate the bad actors that are synthesizing Delta-8 and making ultra-potent products that are being sold with no safeguards whatsoever.

“All the good actors are aligned on this, whether it’s the marijuana side, the hemp side, or anyone else,” he adds. “How do you allow good actors in both the hemp and marijuana space to continue to make products in a safe and regulated manner? That’s important.”

Intoxicating hemp products made by synthesizing low concentrations of THC can be easily bought online or in stores by minors, Bradley warns. Although parents who use CBD to treat children with severe disabilities rely on hemp products, many parents also worry about their children having access to dangerous and intoxicating products derived from hemp, he says, and this is where legislators are looking for a middle ground.

“Having a limit on the total amount of THC that can be sold to anybody anywhere seems like common sense,” Truman says. “[But] nobody wants to prevent sick people from accessing products they need to care themselves or their child.”

Bradley, who served on a task force to submit recommendations to the legislature, spoke at the April 18 hearing and advocated for limits on both THC and the age to buy hemp products.

“We’re talking about a category of products that are going to be sold outside of dispensaries, as currently written, with no age limits,” he says. “There are also children who need to be protected who do not benefit from cannabis or hemp products. Those are children who could walk into a store and buy a ‘non-intoxicating product.’ We also need to protect those kids. It’s not an either-or.”