Delta-8-THC’s complicated legal status

Delta-8 is seemingly legal thanks to a loophole in the 2018 Farm Bill, but local shops wrestle with confusing laws. Photo by Cole Podnay | The Signal

Customers line up to achieve a disputably legal high from edibles, flower and vaping cartridges that line the counters of convenience stores, gas stations and specialty stores across Atlanta. 

These products contain Delta-8-THC, a psychoactive compound found in hemp. The 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp and its byproducts, explicitly excluded Delta-9-THC, also known as simply THC, the compound that produces the typical marijuana “high.” But because of the bill’s loophole, Delta-8 remains legal.

Delta-8 boasts many of the same psychoactive effects as THC, like improved appetite, relaxation and mood, but lacks more undesirable THC effects like anxiety and paranoia. Many people dub Delta-8 “diet weed” or “weed lite,” referencing its milder psychoactive effects when compared to THC. Others call it “CBD on crack.”

Thanks to delta-8’s legal muddiness, selling the substance comes with inherent risks. In late March, law enforcement officers seized $5,000 worth of Delta-8 products from a vape shop in North Carolina. The shop owner argued that the products are legal under the 2018 Farm Bill, while the police chief referenced a South Carolina law that classifies Delta-8 as a controlled substance for having THC. 

Atlanta CBD store Inno Medicinals sold Delta-8 products, including tinctures, vaping cartridges and edibles. After a year of selling the products, they removed the products from shelves in early April over concerns about delta-8’s legality. 

Employee Floretta Gogo said the change was one the business had to make.

“Even though it’s not the same as Delta-9, they can still say, ‘It’s got THC, so it’s a controlled substance,’” Gogo said.

Eleven states explicitly banned delta-8, but Georgia is not one of them. All forms of Delta-8 not derived from the hemp plant are illegal nationwide. Confusing and sometimes contradictory laws about Delta-8 make it challenging for small shops to stick to the rules and for law enforcement to enforce regulations.

“You can’t get [delta-8] [at Inno Medicinals] anymore, but you can definitely get it somewhere else,” Gogo said.

The legal pot industry seeks to limit the sale of Delta-8 to dispensaries in states where cannabis is legal recreationally and prevent its sale entirely in states where cannabis is not permitted. 

Those who seek increased regulation cite concerns that children can purchase the product. They also express concerns that many Delta-8 products contain high THC levels and claim that Delta-8 companies do not test for heavy metals and other harmful substances.

Gogo expressed her disappointment over removing Delta-8 products from Inno Medicinals’ shelves, citing the substance’s perceived benefits. 

“It’s more relaxing than THC, and it doesn’t bring that anxiety, so it’s much better for sleep,” Gogo said. “It enhances every one of your senses. . .even your tastebuds.” 

Gogo hopes for a future where the Delta-8 is fully legal, given her own positive experience and customers’ experiences.

“In the future, I hope that [Georgia] will legalize [delta-8] because of what it does for you,” Gogo said. “[Delta-8] just relaxes you and… enhances your senses, so I think it should be completely okay.”