ST. LOUIS — A vendor promoting “native” Delta-8 cannabis products at Soulard Market Saturday may not return until the city can learn more about what was being sold, officials said Wednesday.
St. Louis Parks Department director Greg Hayes said he made the decision on Tuesday not to allow the seller to return after seeing photos of the stall that showed an “uncertainty” about what was being sold last weekend. The parks department oversees the city farmer’s market.
The seller informed the city that he will be selling CBD products. It didn’t say it would sell Delta 8 products, Hayes said.
Benny Asta, the seller, told the Post-Dispatch Wednesday that his product was “entirely legal.”
Both CBD and Delta-8 are made from hemp, a botanical cousin of marijuana, and are legal in the United States. Retailers and customers say these products are used to help sleep and relieve pain, not to get high.
Industry promoters say the incident raises concerns about a lack of state and federal consumer protection in the hemp industry.
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“It causes undue harm and risk to us as a state,” said Tyler Morgan, president and chairman of the Missouri Hemp Trade Association. “We can’t have an industry that doesn’t care about consumer protection.”
The 2018 federal farm law permits the production and sale of hemp products, although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to evaluate or approve Delta-8 or CBD products.
Cannabis is legally defined as hemp when it contains 0.3% or less of THC, the compound associated with the “high” of marijuana products. Cannabis containing more than 0.3% is considered marijuana.
Laws are mixed in the US
The district attorney in Johnson County, Kansas, which borders Missouri, ordered companies to stop selling Delta 8 products by March 20 after the attorney general issued an opinion last year noting that Delta-8 is a Schedule 1 controlled substance and illegal to possess or sell in Kansas.
Even in Washington state, which was one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, officials have banned the sale of Delta-8 products.
Marijuana is legal in Missouri for medical use only, although efforts are underway to legalize recreational use.
But unlike medical marijuana, which is regulated by the state Department of Health and Human Services, hemp falls under the Missouri Department of Agriculture.
Producers and sellers must be registered and have permits. Hemp plants must be tested to ensure they contain 0.3% or less THC.
Hayes said his department consulted with the city council’s office to ensure compliance with state laws before the seller, whom he did not name, was approved to sell CBD in October. Hayes described the seller as a “sporadic” seller who usually came to the market on a few Saturdays. It is unclear if the seller has previously sold buds at the market.
At Soulard Market on March 19, handwritten signs reading “Home-grown delta-8” and “Jumbo Buds $100” hung over four black, 19-gallon Sterilite storage tubs filled with buds.
No other information, including where the product was grown, was released. Asta and another man packed customers’ orders in ziplock plastic bags.
Asta declined to be interviewed Saturday but then told a reporter that her fields are in Washington, Missouri. He provided a business card that read “VE CBD,” stating that it was a “producer and primary supplier” of CBD. The card listed Asta as the owner.
On Wednesday, he said he sells a strain of “CBD” from a Jefferson City-based company called Healthy Hemp. According to Asta, Healthy Hemp is registered with the State Department of Agriculture. He said VE CBD was a name he used to register with the city to operate at Soulard Market.
He declined to identify Healthy Hemp’s owner.
Asta said the tubs on the market contained hemp with Delta-8, which he compared to flavoring barbecue with hickory smoke. He said the Delta 8 sign is there “as a spark” to attract customers.
“We’re trying to do the right thing, but it went viral,” Asta said.
The State Department of Agriculture had no record of registrations or permits for either Benny Asta or VE CBD. A list of companies registered to grow hemp in Franklin County, where Washington is located, had no record of VE CBD. The state of Missouri also had no corporate incorporation documents for VE CBD.
Morgan of the trade association described photos of the stall at Soulard market, which he found disturbing. The provider, he said, appears not to be following industry best practices, which include labeling and age warnings. His group supports established policies and says they have a strong coalition of lawmakers behind them.
Morgan said the state’s hemp industry generates “over $30 million a month.”
“Missouri is in a unique position to have one of the most vibrant and dynamic hemp industries in the country,” Morgan said. “But we also have to take responsibility and ensure that something like this doesn’t happen.”