Is Oregon’s CBN Ban Responsible or Regressive Legislation?

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Photo: Roxana Gonzalez / Shutterstock

Oregon is the nation’s first adult-use state to ban the sale of cannabinol (CBN) products, and operators throughout the North American industry are voicing mixed sentiments about the state’s new law and the impact it could have on the rest of the country.

While some believe the ban is a responsible step that will help the cannabis industry move further away from its decades-long stigma, others are of the opinion that a restriction on CBN products will have the exact opposite effect, ultimately slowing down the industry’s progress and growth. CBN is recognized as a mildly psychoactive cannabinoid and is often touted by brands for its sedative and pain-relieving properties.

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Oregon Becomes the First State to Ban the Sale of CBN Products

The Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC) made the decision to adopt regulations that would reflect what they’ve interpreted as the intent of House Bill 3000, which passed in 2021 with nearly unanimous support. HB3000 defines “adult-use cannabis,” “artificially-derived cannabinoids,” “delta-9 THC,” and “total delta-9 THC” to help clarify all statutes related to cannabis and/or industrial hemp.

According to the OLCC’s educational materials, the bigger issue at stake is artificially-derived cannabinoids “made by chemical conversion from another substance extracted from cannabis. It does not include substances made by decarboxylation without adding chemical reagents or catalysts. The two most common artificially-derived cannabinoids are CBN (cannabinol) and Delta-8-THC, both of which are commonly made from CBD (cannabidiol).”

As of July 1, Oregon pulled all CBN products from grocery stores, convenience stores, and any other shops where people under the age of 21 have access to the shelves. Dispensaries have a one-year grace period for CBN product sales before they’ll be held under scrutiny for the new regulations.

Unsurprisingly, many brands operating within the state are less than satisfied with this seemingly impulsive interpretation of HB3000.

“It’s our hope that the rest of the nation doesn’t adopt this approach. The word ‘CBN’ is not included in HB3000, and there’s no evidence to suggest CBN is problematic. No data. Nothing,” said Ben Gaines, director of marketing at Wyld.

“If you look at the law’s text, it’s 100 percent pointed at hemp-derived, synthetic delta-9 THC. This law was not written to ban CBN. Furthermore, millions of pounds of synthetic caffeine are imported to the U.S. and put in sodas every year. A lot of citric acid is synthetically-derived. The difference is, these products all have the benefit of going through the FDA process, and cannabis is explicitly difficult to move through the federal system. As a result, our bar for participation remains unfairly high,” said Gaines.

Gaines isn’t wrong — in his opinion, CBN isn’t explicitly mentioned or referenced in HB3000, and because of that, it’s difficult not to view the Commission’s ruling as an invasive overextension of government intervention.

“Almost immediately upon introduction into THC markets, CBN became a leading skew. Sales were quickly compounding, and as of late last year, CBN products began ranking #1 or #2 for us, depending on the market,” said Gaines. “What we’re seeing is consumers adopting a new product that is appropriately formulated for their needs. CBN came in and provided immediate impact for consumers seeking to get rest or relaxation, and statistically speaking, feedback has been extremely positive. We let our consumers speak for themselves, and they are overwhelmingly in support of this cannabinoid.”

While Oregon operators like Gaines have seen nothing but positive feedback for CBN, other industry voices feel the ban could have a positive effect on how cannabis is perceived globally.

“In other states, a ban like this would have a much greater effect on the consumer, because it would be the only place they can access THC-type compounds. But I’m really leery of some of these synthetically-created, hemp-derived cannabinoids, because we’re doing chemistry on them without any FDA oversight,” said Josh Wurzer, president and co-founder of SC Labs. SC Labs launched in California in 2010 and helped develop some of the industry’s first testing standards and guidelines that are now widely adopted across the industry.

“That really scares me. I understand why Oregon is deciding to ban some of these products until they can properly regulate them. It’s also tough to draw the line for some of the compounds like CBN that occur naturally but are also being synthesized from hemp-derived CBD. I would hope there is some route to expanding access to cannabinoids for everyone, but the hemp market needs a proper regulation checklist before these products are sold. In the short term, I do worry about allowing some of the cheaply made, potentially unsafe products onto the market with no oversight. It’s hard for the consumer to distinguish between the products made with proper quality control and those that are not, which is not good for anybody, including the hemp industry,” said Wurzer.

For Wurzer, the sale of CBN products without thorough oversight is a step backward for the credibility of cannabis, which operators have worked so hard to build up the last few decades.

However, others view the ban as a real regression, fearing the entire industry will drift back into a source of confusion and anxiety for the general public.

“Non-psychoactive cannabinoids like CBN appeal to the canna-curious demographic and have an amazing ability to draw new customers to the legal cannabis market. Although this ban allows for a one-year grace period for dispensaries to continue selling CBN while removing it from grocery store and gas station shelves, the overall message the public could re-perpetuate ‘Reefer Madness’ stigmas around the safety of responsibly manufactured CBN and other cannabis products,” said Mikaela McLaughlin, vice president of retail business development at springbig.

“We are also seeing brands like Wyld threaten to leave the market because of this ban, which would be incredibly unfortunate because cannabis customers would lose access to high-quality products if top manufacturers leave the state,” said McLaughlin.

With such differing opinions on Oregon’s ban, it will be interesting to see how the law actually pans out, and what sort of effect it will have on the greater cannabis industry in the long run.

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