Just because something is sold in stores or online does not necessarily mean it’s legal. Austin-based cannabis retailer Hometown Hero learned this the hard way after State District Judge Gary Harger blocked their request to list delta-8 as a legal substance in the state of Texas.
What exactly is delta-8, and why is it illegal in Texas? According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a psychotropic substance typically found in the Cannabis sativa plant, which has two varieties – marijuana and hemp. It is one of over 100 cannabinoids that is produced naturally by the plant and is most commonly found concentrated in hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD).
Confusion regarding the regulation of delta-8 THC started with the passage of the federal Farm Bill in 2018. Then, in 2019 state law House Bill 1325 was put in place. Both documents legalized hemp growing in the state of Texas.
The federal Farm Bill deems any marijuana extract containing less than 0.3% of THC as legal.
Based on the description outlined in these two bills, cannabis retailers understood that delta-8 falls under this category of legal marijuana extracts because it contained less than 0.3% of THC. These retailers, then, went on to create and sell numerous products containing delta-8.
However, concerns grew when the state said that delta-8 was not a legal substance quite a while after those two bills had been passed. They claimed it was because delta-8 was not explicitly mentioned in either document.
The FDA finds delta-8 to be inconsistent and untestable because harmful chemicals might be used to produce high volumes of delta-8. Since there is not a standard method or recipe to create these extracts, delta-8 can be unpredictable.
Similar to delta-9 THC, delta-8 has also been known to cause users a sense of feeling “high,” losing the use of motor skills and or a delay in cognitive abilities. While the amount of naturally occurring delta-8 in hemp is low, harmful chemicals may be used to convert other cannabinoids such as CBD into delta-8, as reported by the FDA.
The concern is that consumers may attempt to use delta-8 products as treatment for chronic or life-threatening illnesses rather than using drugs that have been clinically proven by the FDA.
The FDA warns that labels among cannabis products can come across as vague or may contain unsubstantiated medical claims, thus leading to misinformation and misuse. It is also important to note that any product claiming to hold substantial medical benefits without approval from the FDA is against federal law.
While various cannabinoids have been rumored to have cancer-fighting properties, there are no current studies being conducted by the National Cancer Institute to further investigate these claims. The FDA claims this is because cannabis is inconsistent and not relatable enough for proper testing.
From Jan. 1 to Jul. 31, 2021, poison control centers across the country received 660 reports of adverse reactions related to delta-8 THC. Prior to 2021, there had only been one report of adverse reactions caused by the delta-8 THC since January 2018. These reports ranged from pediatric to adult to animal cases of exposure.
Delta-8 products can be especially worrisome to parents as many of these products take the form of chocolate, gummy candy or cookies, which can be enticing to young children.
The bottom line for consumers is to be aware and do your research. Be proactive and vigilant. Confirm that your resources are credible when exploring the potential benefits and disadvantages of new products. Figure out who funds a company’s research that backs their claims. Do not use random internet articles or social media influencers as sources of medical advice but instead consult with your healthcare provider before taking any drastic measures.