Illinois bill threatens hemp THC shops

Around 300 Illinois shops selling THC-infused products could soon go out of business if legislation currently being debated in the state House passes.

House Bill 4293, if passed, would ban the sale of all THC products derived from hemp, including Delta-8 and Delta-9 products. Proponents claim that these products are dangerous, unregulated, and have been marketed to youth.

THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis, can also come from the hemp plant. Chi’Tiva, a café lounge in Wicker Park, has been selling Delta-9-infused drinks, pastries, and candies since April 2022. Owner Charles Wu says the bill is a direct threat to stores like his.

"This bill would make what we do illegal, and we would shut down," Wu said. "I would have to lay off my employees and would be on the hook for millions in liabilities from personal guarantees on leases."

Representatives from the legal cannabis industry support the bill. They argue that their companies had to meet strict regulatory protocols and pay millions of dollars to operate. Legal cannabis in Illinois is grown and processed under stringent regulations, while Delta-8 and Delta-9 products operate in what they call a regulatory wild west.

"There are 800 pages of regulations that govern cannabis, and none that regulate these stores selling intoxicating products from the same plant," said Jason Erkes, spokesperson for Cresco Labs’ Sunnyside Dispensaries.

Wu says he and other hemp business owners have lobbied for regulations that would treat their products the same as legal cannabis, but have not succeeded.

"If the bill said, ‘Hey, you have to do the same thing we have to do, hit certain standards, follow those requirements,’ we’d say absolutely, we’re on board," Wu said.

However, Erkes insists that Delta-8 and Delta-9 products are dangerous and often sold with higher THC content than regulated cannabis.

"They have products that are unregulated and untested. They are positioning themselves as dispensaries and sending kids to the hospital, and that’s what needs to stop," Erkes said.

State Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, has been a vocal proponent of enacting regulations to allow hemp stores to operate. He says lawmakers have been meeting and debating the bill throughout the day.

"It’s an ongoing fight," Ford told Fox 32.

The House had until the end of the week to consider the legislation before the end of the spring session, however, at 6 a.m. on Wednesday, the House adjourned without passing the ban.