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High from hemp: States wrestle with chemically made THC

JACKSON, Mich. (AP) — Over the past few years, Jonny Griffis has invested millions of dollars in his legal marijuana farm in northern Michigan, which produces extracts to be used in things like gummy bears and vape oils.

But now that farm — like many other licensed grows in states that have legalized marijuana — faces an existential threat: high-inducing cannabis compounds derived not from the heavily regulated and taxed legal marijuana industry, but from a chemical process involving less strictly regulated, cheaply grown hemp.

“It’s going to make our farm obsolete,” Griffis, the chief operating officer of True North Collective, testified before Michigan’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency recently. “The $3 million or so that I’ve invested ... is going to be wiped out.”

At the center of the issue is THC, marijuana’s main intoxicating component. While marijuana and hemp are the same plant — cannabis — the distinction between the two is a legal one, and comes down to the amount of THC in the plant, specifically the amount of a type of THC called delta-9.

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