The Controversy Surrounding Delta-8-THC, And Why It's Flying Off Shelves

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 
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Clap your hands and stomp your feet, raise the flags and kiss the babies, ’cause all you people living in weed-deprived states have legal marijuanas! It’s called Delta-8; you can buy it in your local vape shop, and you’ll cough like a hippie at a Bob Dylan concert in 1975, but it has all the good parts of its illegal brother, Delta-9 (it’ll help your nausea and pain, and unlike CBD, it’ll get you hiiiiiiiigh), and none of the bad ones (being illegal). Except it’s maybe illegal. Partially illegal. Delta-8 is, in most states, a total legal gray area despite attempted clarification by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

So get it before it disappears, suckers.

The One Thing The Orange One Did Right

Trump’s legacy looks like one fuck-up after another. (Remember how he tried to overthrow democracy? Remember how his racist, brain-numbed followers stormed the Capitol, and he threw kids in cages?!). However, everything he touched didn’t actually turn to shit: see the 2018 Farm Bill for evidence.

According to the Brookings Institute, the 2018 Farm Bill had among its goals the legalization of large-scale hemp cultivation and its free distribution across state lines. More importantly, it also “put no restrictions on the sale, transport, or possession of hemp-derived products” as long as they were “produced in a manner consistent with the law.”

As the Food and Drug Administration says, the 2018 Farm Bill removed “hemp, defined as cannabis (Cannabis sativa L.) and derivatives of cannabis with extremely low concentrations of the psychoactive compound delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) (no more than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis), from the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).”

Delta-9, my friends. Delta-9.

Delta-9 THC is so-called because it refers to a specific molecular bond and where it occurs on the THC molecule. But wily marijuana growers knew that another naturally occurring psychoactive substance, Delta-8, could be naturally extracted from hemp, according to J.D. Supra. Delta-8 occurs when a carbon-carbon double bond is shifted over one teensy molecule, says a study in Science Direct.

Delta-8 gets you high like Delta-9, though it’s not as long-lasting — in my experience, your high sticks around for about two hours. And it hits like a bomb, unlike your boutique Delta-9 vape pen — expect to cough your ass off. But people report the same nausea-relief symptoms from Delta-8 that they’ve found from Delta-9, as well as increased appetite, and pain relief without the accompanying paranoia and anxiety that can sometimes come from Delta-9.

Y’all, I will eat my whole house if I smoke Delta-8. I have to prepare myself with snackage before I smoke. I’ve also used it to kill nausea — and to stop panic attacks. As I told my psychiatrist, Klonopin will kill a panic attack in 30 minutes. Xanax takes 15.

Delta-8 will stop my panic attack in 5 minutes.

Delta-8? Sounds Great! Except…

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The DEA wasn’t happy that suddenly, marijuana had pretty much become legal throughout the United States. Like, 100%, total Wild West, you-can’t-touch-me, no-regulations legal. So they issued a clarifying statement in August of 2020, according to Hemp Industry Daily, which states: “All synthetically derived (THC) remain Schedule I controlled substances.”

Here’s the problem.

Delta-8 is a naturally occurring substance. But synthesizing it from CBD remains the cheapest, most effective way to manufacture it for sale, says Hemp Industry Daily. Moreover, it’s impossible to tell if Delta-8 has been synthesized or if it’s naturally occurring. And most states have no way of testing for the difference between Delta-8 and Delta-9, says Rolling Stone. Neither do drug tests. There’s probably fine print on your Delta-8 packaging that says “this product may cause you to fail a drug test.”

This product will certainly cause you to fail a drug test, dude. Drug tests are not sophisticated enough to distinguish between Delta-8 and Delta-9. They detect THC, period.

Delta-8’s Already Being Banned

JD Supra argues that since the DEA and the Farm Bill never explain what “synthetic” means, it could refer to deriving drugs only from inorganic substances, not from organic substances like CBD, which puts Delta-8 into a legal gray area. That hasn’t stopped states from taking matters into their own hands.

Alabama, says Hemp Industry Daily, tried twice to ban Delta-8 and its cousin Delta-10. They failed both times. Illinois, which has legal marijuana, regulated it; Kentucky reaffirmed its ban as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. North Dakota and Oregon are thinking about regulations; Washington, where marijuana is legal, “reminded” people that substances created in a lab were illegal. Meanwhile, Vermont, where marijuana is legal, proclaimed that Delta-8 was also legal.

Confusion abounds.

Eleven states ban Delta-8 completely: Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, Rhode Island and Utah. You people are SOL. But some of you have access to legal marijuana, so it really doesn’t matter. Go smoke your blunt in peace while the rest of us pray for loopholes.

So What’s It Like?

Delta-8, like Delta-9, comes in two strains: indica and sativa. As Try Cannavine says, indica has a reputation for giving you more of a body high: it gives you the munchies, relieves pain, and often makes you sleepy. I smoke a Delta-8 indica strain to go to sleep every night (Granddaddy Purple, for anyone who’s keeping count out there). It not only helps me sleep, it calms my anxiety enough to let me sleep. It’s replaced the Klonopin I once took every night.

Let me repeat that: Delta-8 lets me take one less benzodiazepine pill every day. For anyone who knows about benzos, that’s a huge deal pharmaceutically. You really want to take as few benzos as possible.

Sativa gives you more of a head-high. If I want to play some play-doh or be cool, fun mom (and I am not driving anywhere or the sole adult in the house), I have some sativa. It made a recent concert by The Indigo Girls super-fun; it’s great to hike with; board games are totally awesome on it. I sometimes take two or three hits before therapy: enough to make me talk more. But any more than that would be impairing.

These last for about two hours, and you develop a resistance fairly quickly.

Delta-8 has been awesome for us — even if I couldn’t use it recreationally, it’s allowed me to sleep. But we’ll be stocking up just in case that legal gray area suddenly becomes heavily enforced in our state.

The takeaway? If you’re interested, try it now, just in case your state gets a bug up its butt for it and scares off retailers. Promise you won’t be disappointed. And at thirty to thirty-five dollars for a super long-lasting vape, you won’t be out much cash.

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