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Standout: Delta-8 chemical for hemp is gaining fans and scrutiny

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NEW YORK – The chemical cousin of the pot’s main intoxicating ingredient has soared in popularity over the former year, and the cannabis industry and state governments are racing to its credit amid debate over whether it’s legal.

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The rise of Delta 8 is a “phenomenon that has taken the industry by storm,” says John Kajia, of New Frontier Data, an industry analyst for cannabis industry analysis, and it offers “a fascinating insight into some growing and growing pains.”

There are no firm and rapid statistics about sales of Delta-8, which is available in vapes, gummies and other forms. It’s been the fastest-growing segment of the hemp chemicals market for about the former year, following CBD wholesale prices plummeted amid oversupply and other issues, says Ian Laird of data analytics firm Hemp Benchmarks.

After a few years in the CBD business, William Goodall and his partner Katiana Kay started selling delta-8 products through their online store Bay Smokes in December. It quickly became a major source of revenue.

Goodall said that following speaking to attorneys and supplier chemists, he’s confident that Bay Smokes products are safe and federally legal (other attorneys disagree about how perilous Delta-8 is to sell). But the Miami-based company has had to liquidate customers from a growing list of states that forbid Delta 8.

However, he sticks to it, believing that legal markets for it will survive at fewest in states where marijuana is allowed.

“In the end, I think Delta 8 is a distinguished product,” he says.

But some other cannabis companies are clearly going.

“Easy money is tempting, but this is not a path we wanted to go down,” says Gair Laucius, chief scientific officer of Southbridge, Massachusetts-based CBD producer High Purity Natural Products. “There were a lot of unknowns.”

The 2018 federal law that says OK’d cannabis products can have no more than 0.3% delta-9, said nothing about delta 8.

Enthusiasts interpret this silence as a Delta 8 green light, and some officials also see an opportunity for this. The Wisconsin Legislature, a research service for lawmakers, concluded final year that Delta 8 products may qualify to be cannabis if they fall below the Delta 9 threshold, though the council cautioned that it does not provide legal advice.

But over the former year, the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration has said that “synthetically derived” THC and delta-8 are specifically top-level controlled substances — effectively illegal, except for very limited research.

There isn’t much research on Delta 8, especially in people, although a little 1995 study said it showed promising results as an anti-nausea treatment in pediatric cancer patients. But officials in states like Colorado and Washington are concerned that converting CBD to Delta 8 could produce harmful by-products, at fewest in some cases.

This spring, regulators in Washington said the production or sale of synthetically derived Delta 8 is against state law, while Colorado said that manufactured Delta 8 is not permitted in food, nutritional supplements or cosmetics and is not considered hemp. Kentucky and Vermont told cannabis growers that selling Delta 8 risks criminal prosecution.

Controlled substance lists in more than 10 other states include Delta-8, sometimes under a distinct name. Lawmakers in more than a dozen other states, from Alabama to Hawaii, have taken or considered some steps on Delta 8 this year.

Some have actively sought to forbid it. Others allow it but oversee it like legal marijuana markets, wary of selling Delta 8 intoxicating items at gas stations, convenience stores and elsewhere without the alike standards and restrictions that apply to pot dispensaries.

“It’s still a form of cannabis that can get you lofty, and it’s unregulated and untested,” says Jacqueline McGowan, a California cannabis licensing consultant and candidate for governor. California’s proposed legislation would require testing and taxing of “cannabis other than hemp” consumables, including Delta 8.

In Oregon, newly passed legislation gives the state liquor watchdog the authority to limit THC — of any considerate — in products sold to minors, among other provisions. The commission’s director of research TJ Sheehy says it will ensure consumer safety without banning Delta 8 for adults.

Texas lawmakers hit a lifeless end this spring over a measure that producers said would have banned Delta 8 from consumer cannabis products.

Home sponsor representative. Tracy King, a rural Democrat, says he “just wanted to do something to aid growers and processors” by stripping the measure of the proposed cannabis legalization that was moving toward its passage. It eventually stopped as the legislative session ended.

US industry group Hemp Roundtable fears that portraying Delta 8 products as lofty-quality hemp could jeopardize the firm-earned plant’s federal legal status. But another group, the Hemp Industries Association, fears lawmakers will rush to crack down.

The Delta-8 got into law enforcement’s radar as well, leading to store raids in multiple states.

In Wisconsin, Waukesha County authorities alleged in April that a CBD store was displaying products labeled delta-8 THC that already contained illegal amounts of delta-9. Authorities say they launched an investigation following two children accidentally swallowed products their parents had obtained at a Superstar Buds store in Menomoney Falls, near Milwaukee.

Store owner Chris Syracuse denies the allegations and says authorities have not given him detailed test results. No criminal charges have yet been filed, though prosecutors have filed a civil forfeiture case relating to about $14,000 stashed in the investigation.

“Delta 8 came to preserve our lives” as a company, Syracuse said, making six unused employees available. “Then all of a sudden, everything collapsed with the police raid.”

The shop has since closed but opened a unused one in Milwaukee.


Contributing writer Scott Bauer to The Associated Press from Madison, Wisconsin.


Peltz is a member of the Associated Press’s marijuana beat team. Follow AP’s packed coverage of marijuana:


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