Hemp Industry Innovation Continues to Outpace Insurance Coverage
The US hemp and CBD market has been on a rollercoaster ride since the implementation of the 2018 farm bill.
High hopes for a $10B+ annual CBD marketplace were swiftly checked by an oversupply of biomass causing plummeting prices, both in biomass and CBD isolate (the most commonly produced derivative at the time). It was clear that most businesses would have to either shutter or pivot. Many chose the former.
Others homed in on a key component of the farm bill – the fact that all derivates of legal hemp were also considered hemp, and thus apparently legal. And the race to breed strains containing higher proportions of CBG & CBN – while keeping Delta-9 THC below allowable levels – began.
This raised an interesting question in the minds of industry innovators and regulators alike – how would cannabinoids derived from hemp that cause psychoactive effects be treated? It is clear the farm bill intends to exclude the primary cannabinoid responsible for cannabis’s intoxicating effects, Delta 9 THC. But what about other psychoactive cannabinoids that hadn’t been broadly explored or commercially produced when the farm bill was enacted? Delta 8 THC, a close chemical relative of Delta 9 THC and carrying significant intoxicating effects, brought this question to the forefront.
What is the 2018 Farm Bill as it relates to Hemp? The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (the “Farm Bill”) contained a key provision that would lay the foundation for the establishment of today’s Hemp and CBD industries. This provision:
defined “hemp” as cannabis that contains less than 0.3% Delta 9 THC by weight and
removed hemp and its derivatives from schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, thus opening up the ability to grow and produce hemp products
Source: "Text - H.R.2 - 115th Congress (2017-2018): Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018." Congress.gov
Delta 8 THC is a psychoactive chemical which occurs naturally in cannabis in very small amounts.. Some users report the psychoactive effects as being less intense, but comparable to, the effects of Delta 9 THC.
The explosion in the number of Delta 8 products being sold online as well as in brick and mortars like gas stations and supplement stores is a direct result of crashing CBD isolate prices. Looking for a more profitable end-product, hemp processors began synthesizing Delta 8 from their excess CBD. Consumers quickly latched on to this as it was suddenly broadly available, supposedly legal yet still intoxicating, and available in all 50 states. Popularity has steadily increased despite many states moving to make Delta 8 illegal. Proposed changes to the farm bill by the DEA have only created more confusion as to what the future of Delta 8 may look like.
Taking the Delta 8 conversion reaction a few steps further can result in the synthesis of Delta 10 THC. The current market for Delta 10 is much smaller than Delta 8, so reports on effects are much less reliable. However, it is widely reported to be similarly psychoactive to Delta 8.
Unlike Delta 8, Delta 9, and Delta 10 THC, THC-O does not naturally occur in the cannabis plant. However, it can be synthesized from CBD via a multi-stage reaction. Early reports suggest THC-O may be significantly more intoxicating than Delta 9 THC. Regulators are sure to keep a close eye on these products in the near future.
The Business of Minor Cannabinoids
Before beginning to offer products primarily made up of minor cannabinoids like CBG, CBN, or Delta 8 THC, it is critical for all hemp and CBD businesses to review their current insurance policy. Is coverage limited specifically to CBD products, or is coverage afforded for all products made legal under the 2018 farm bill? Is your insurance carrier willing to specifically name Delta 8 THC products as covered under the policy via an endorsement? Are there exclusions around impairment and intoxication that leave your company exposed?
Generally, carriers at the forefront of hemp and CBD insurance have become more comfortable with CBG and CBN products, with the understanding that they are not intoxicating. The picture changes drastically for Delta 8 THC, with very few carriers affording coverage; and we have yet to see a policy that explicitly covers Delta 10 THC and THC-O. The reality for many innovative hemp extractors and processors is that their business may be taking on the full risk associated with introducing these products to market, making in-house safety, quality, and product recall plans critical preparations for possible future regulatory action.
Symphony Grow can help you consider and successfully navigate these challenges
Rich Golz, CIC, is a principal at Symphony Grow, the specialty business of Symphony Risk Solutions. Symphony Grow is a full-service risk management, insurance, and employee benefits advisory and brokerage firm focused exclusively on the cannabis and hemp industries. The leaders of Symphony Grow have been at the forefront of insurance for the industry since its early stages, building the cannabis practices at three of the world’s largest brokers while working with clients across the supply chain in the US and Canada.
Rich can be reached at email@example.com or 708-256-3535.
Cannabis: a flowering plant used primarily for the compounds produced by the females of the species. The 2018 Farm Bill further defined cannabis as having greater than 0.3% Delta 9 THC by weight
Hemp: a cannabis plant defined by the 2018 Farm Bill as having less than 0.3% Delta 9 THC by weight
Cannabinoid: the compounds produced by the cannabis/hemp plant
Delta 9 THC: the primary compound produced by the cannabis plant, to which the plant’s psychoactive effects are primarily attributed
Delta 8 THC: a psychoactive close chemical relative of Delta 9 THC which today is commonly synthesized from hemp-derived CBD isolate in a perceived Farm Bill loophole
Delta 10 THC: a psychoactive close chemical relative of Delta 9 THC which today is commonly synthesized from hemp-derived CBD isolate in a perceived Farm Bill loophole
CBD: the primary compound produced by hemp plants legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill. CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning users do not experience intoxication from use
CBD Isolate: 99%+ pure CBD extracted from hemp. CBD isolate is commonly infused into gummies, topicals, vape products, etc. for consumption, or further processed into Delta 8, Delta 10, and THC-O
THC-O: not naturally occurring in cannabis, THC-O is a psychoactive synthetic cannabinoid which today is commonly synthesized from hemp-derived CBD isolate in a perceived Farm Bill loophole