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Δ8-THC: The Rise of a Legal, Hemp Based Intoxicant

,  February 18, 2024  Written by Jeff Rowse
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Navigating the highways of Missouri, it's hard to miss the billboards boldly proclaiming, "Ask me about legal THC." However, the devil is in the details, as most drivers speed by too quickly to catch the triangle and small number 8 cleverly tucked next to the letter C. These billboards strategically position themselves near legal dispensaries, enticing passersby with the tempting promise, "You don't need a card!" (Not that you even necessarily need a card today, anyways, but there can be some advantages to having one!) The driving force behind this phenomenon is the burgeoning market for Δ8-THC, a compound taking advantage of the legalization of CBD.

Legalizing Δ8-THC With the Farm Bill

The genesis of this trend can be traced back to 2018 when the Farm Bill marked a significant shift by legalizing industrial hemp and its derivatives, overturning a ban that had stood since the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. Eager growers swiftly began cultivating hemp, eyeing the potential profits from CBD extraction. The initial intention of the bill was to empower individuals to make informed decisions about their health by embracing the therapeutic benefits of CBD. However, the industry's rapid growth resulted in a surplus of CBD flooding the market.

Δ8-THC: From Good Intentions to Unintended Outcomes

The influx of first-time hemp growers led to an oversaturated market, causing prices for CBD oil to plummet. Some of these people found themselves in dire straits, with bales of hemp left to rot. In response to this surplus, resourceful chemists seized the opportunity to create a new product – Δ8-THC. While Δ8-THC naturally occurs in various chemovars, the levels are very often too low to measure. Enterprising minds discovered that Δ8-THC could be isolated from both CBD and Δ9-THC by utilizing a chemical process involving heat, specific acids, and catalysts. On the surface, it might seem like a harmless transformation, but opinions on the matter tend to diverge.

The creation of these synthetically created cannabinoids is largely unregulated, as is who is allowed to produce them. The laboratory equipment is readily available for purchase and is relatively inexpensive. Instructions on how to convert CBD into intoxicants are a doom scroll away on YouTube, setting the stage for a burgeoning industry that raises both curiosity and concern. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported participants in states without medical or adult-use cannabis laws were more likely to use Δ8-THC, and seventeen states have already banned its use.

Attempting to Fix What Might be Broken

In 2023, there was a flurry of activity in state legislation regarding hemp-derived cannabinoids. A federal judge in Alaska upheld a ban on intoxicating hemp products. Maryland banned Δ8 and changed their rules to require all hemp-based intoxicants to have no more than 2.5mg THC per package. Arkansas saw a U.S. District Court rule against a state law banning Δ8. The Georgia Court of Appeals deemed Δ8 legal after police raids upon businesses that sell the product. Lawsuits in Texas also went to the appellate court to overturn a ban on Δ8. In Missouri, legislation was filed to regulate intoxicating hemp products and require them to be sold in state-licensed dispensaries, removing them from gas stations, kratom shops, and liquor stores. 

Looking Towards the Future of Δ8-THC

As policymakers grapple with the evolving landscape of cannabis derivatives, it remains to be seen how the intersection of legality, public health, and economic interests will shape the future of Δ8-THC and similar substances in the United States. The debate over hemp-derived intoxicants will continue in 2024 as the Farm Bill, which was supposed to be voted on in 2023, was delayed to late this year. As the country awaits the Farm Bill's outcome the trajectory of Δ8-THC and other substances derived from cannabis with less than 0.3% THC will continue unabated. Until then, it is incumbent upon manufacturers to be transparent and educate both the public and the retailers and wholesalers about how their products are made and the ingredients they are made with.


Disclaimer: The information presented here is meant for educational purposes only. Medical decisions should not be made based on advertising. Consult a physician on the benefits and risks of specific medical products.

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