On most days, the U.S. cannabis industry seems simultaneously poised to either rush forward or take a painful step backwards.
Even as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer recently pledged to introduce a bill to federally legalize cannabis prior to an August recess of Congress, other lawmakers are attempting to reign in access to various forms of the plant. One such example comes courtesy of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and his opposition to a new, so-called “loophole” form of THC.
To understand the issues at play, it’s first necessary to know the basics about delta-8 THC.
WHAT’S SO GREAT ABOUT DELTA-8?
Unlike delta-9 THC (aka “traditional” THC), delta-8 can be derived from either hemp or cannabis. Though it doesn’t pack quite the same punch as its more popular peer, delta-8 THC does induce a psychoactive high. Following the success of the 2018 Farm Bill, delta-8 has since become a popular substitute for consumers living in states where delta-9 THC remains illegal.
In reaction to an avalanche of delta-8 products hitting shelves, some states have since enacted legislation to prohibit the cannabinoid in both its synthesized and natural forms. As of now, 20 states across the U.S. had restrictions or bans on delta-8 THC already in place while an additional four states remain in various phases of reviewing the cannabinoid’s legal status. On April 25, the Phoenix New Times reported that Arizona’s state congress is currently attempting to ban delta-8.
Such is also the case in Virginia, where Gov. Youngkin is proposing a new amendment that would ban the retail sale of delta-8 products in the state.
“Delta-8 is, in fact, basically marijuana and marijuana is prohibited from being sold right now,” Youngkin said in comments made to News 3 earlier this month. “There’s not a market, so this was a good clarifying amendment in order to treat Delta-8 along with Delta-9 in the same category, while preserving all the access for CBD products.”
Despite his self-described efforts to preserve “all the access” of Virginians to CBD products, Youngkin has reportedly separately proposed limiting the sales of CBD to only adults 21 and older.
Making matters even more dire, a recent blog from NORML Development Director and Virginia Chapter Executive Director JM Pedini outlined additional ways in which Youngkin’s suggested revisions to current state cannabis policy would be a lurch back towards the dark ages.
“Instead of creating new ways to criminalize Virginians for personal possession of cannabis,” Pedini said, “Governor Youngkin’s administration would better serve his constituents by establishing a legal adult-use marijuana market and ensuring that all cannabis products sold in the Commonwealth are accurately labeled and regulated for consumer safety.”
These new forms of criminalization include the proposed creation of two new misdemeanors related to personal marijuana possession.
BACK TO THE DARK AGES
As things stand, possession of more than an ounce of cannabis by an adult in Virginia is currently punishable by nothing more than a $25 fine. Should Youngkin’s desired amendments go through, possession of over two ounces would become a Class 2 misdemeanor — punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. Anyone caught with over six ounces, meanwhile, would be subject to Class 1 misdemeanor and be at risk of being sentenced to 12 months in jail and/or a $2,500 fine.
To say nothing of the illogical choice to refute the will of Virginia’s voters by attempting to re-introduce cannabis prohibitions, the situation is far murkier as it relates to delta-8.
Unarguably still in its infancy as a compound of interest to researchers and consumers alike, there is both plenty of promise as well as much still to learn. Last year, a deep-dive into the safety of delta-8 led Leafly to conclude that while “there are some infused delta-8 THC edible products sold in licensed cannabis stores by reputable companies, [the] vast majority of delta-8 products are sold outside the state-licensed cannabis system.”
The crux of the matter comes down to a lack of consistency in regulation and testing. For your best bets on delta-8 products you can trust, CBDNerds hasyoucovered. That said, though the choice to prohibit delta-8 until the day arrives when we may feel we more fully understand it may seem reasonable, the history of cannabis tells a different story. Prohibition equates to a lack of research, which in turn reinforces the notion that a given compound has no beneficial purpose. Putting the genie back in the bottle never works, so the viable alternative is to regulate, codify, and invest in the research necessary to gain a proper understanding of the ways in which delta-8 may benefit us.
Or, of course, cannabis could be legalized at the federal level, which would theoretically allow for a more nuanced, consumer-defined delta-8 market. But until that time arrives, the state-by-state saga of delta-8’s shifting legal status can continue to serve as a crystal ball into what may happen next for cannabis overall.