Local Business Owners Raise Concerns Over House Bill 544 Regulating Hemp Products

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Earlier this week, an emergency regulations meeting was convened to discuss public concerns over House Bill 544, which aims to regulate the sale of delta-8 and other hemp-derived products. Local business owners, including Joe Boese, owner of CBD Time in Woodhill, have raised concerns that the regulations stipulated could significantly affect small businesses.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Rebecca Raymer, R-Morgantown, intends to restrict the sale of intoxicating hemp products like delta-8, delta-9, and delta-10 to minors, while also implementing mandatory product testing. Boese’s chief concern is the requirement for lab testing of each product identified by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services as having “intoxicating effects.”

According to Boese, this level of testing would incur prohibitive costs for small business owners like himself. “It costs a lot of money to test it, and with the new regulations, they want to test every product. I’ve got 600-700 products in my store and it would cost me $60-70K a month just to test my products. And I would add that that would put me out of business and that would put a lot of people out of business,” Boese told The Lexington Times in a phone interview.

Katie Moyer, the president of the Kentucky Hemp Association, expressed similar concerns to Spectrum News. While supportive of regulations for safety, she said that testing should focus on the original resin extracted from the plant, which would significantly cut down costs for business owners. Moyer stated that this approach would “save business owners from having to spend the money on sending all their products to a lab.”

Boese, who is also part of the Kentucky Hemp Association, argues that these regulatory stipulations, derived from a template originally created for marijuana, may not be appropriate for hemp-derived products. He emphasized that small businesses have made recommendations for a different set of regulations, which have so far been ignored by state officials.

Boese says the issue is not only about business economics but also about the health and well-being of consumers, many of whom are turning to hemp-derived products for medicinal purposes. “70% of my customers are using this for medicinal purposes. Some are trying to get off of pharmaceuticals that have too many side effects or because the pharmaceuticals aren’t working for them. People are budgeting $200 a month for these products, even though they could get pharmaceuticals at a co-pay,” Boese added.

Boese encourages concerned citizens to send emails by Friday to chfsregs@ky.gov to express their concerns and suggest changes to the bill. He fears that if the bill is enacted as it is, only large corporations would be able to afford to stay in business, which would substantially affect consumer choice and health options.

Rep. Raymer said she worked in conjunction with the Kentucky Hemp Association to pass this measure and hopes that the executive branch upholds the legislature’s intent. However, Moyer feels that more tailored regulations are necessary and hopes that Kentucky can serve as a model for other states.

The debate over House Bill 544 underscores the tension between ensuring consumer safety and supporting local businesses, particularly in an emerging market like that of hemp-derived products. As legislators and stakeholders weigh in, the impact of these regulations remains to be seen.

Photo: Adobe Stock