Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has taken the cannabis marketplace by storm in recent months. It has quickly ascended to the status of a coveted ingredient in a myriad of cannabis products, from tinctures to edibles to joints. But what makes Delta-8 special?
For starters, it is a derivative of Delta-9 THC, the most popular psychoactive cannabinoid that remains regulated by the federal government. In short, Delta-8 is capable of getting users high, but in a less noticeable way. Users have described the Delta-8 high as a lighter version of traditional THC that is capable of reducing pain without as much psychoactivity, according to The New York Times. This leads to many questions, mainly, how is Delta-8 available in products on tons of shelves across the U.S. when it is psychoactive?
Looking at Delta-8 purely on face value, it makes sense to conclude that it too is illegal under federal government regulations, primarily the Controlled Substance Act which holds Delta-9 THC to be an illicit substance. The picture is not so clear for Delta-8, however. A major point of differentiation between Delta-8 and its more well-known brother cannabinoid Delta-9 is that Delta-8 is derived from the hemp variety of the cannabis plant, which is legal under federal law.
This is the case because of the 2018 Farm Bill passed by Congress, which green lights industrial cultivation of hemp. The caveat being that industrial hemp must register low levels of THC, 0.3% or less. Thus, cannabis retailers in illegal states have been able to produce, market and sell products featuring Delta-8 THC by utilizing cracks in federal regulations. That being said, retailers are not totally in the clear as the Drug Enforcement Administration is currently weighing how to classify Delta-8 THC, according to the NYT.
Therefore, it is safe to conclude that while Delta-8 THC currently is legal in a limited sense, that could change in the future if the DEA opts to adjust its policies towards the cannabinoid, putting it on par with Delta-9 THC, which the agency says is illegal under the CSA. Retailers selling Delta-8 THC products should keep this in mind and keep an eye on the horizon.
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