Arkansas recently became the latest state to ban the use of hemp-derived psychoactive cannabinoids, including delta-8 THC. This move came after Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized industrial hemp containing no more than 0.3% delta-9 THC but did not mention other compounds.
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed Senate Bill 358, now Act 629, into law on April 11th. The bill reclassifies hemp-derived delta-9, delta-6a, delta-10, delta-10a, and delta-8 THC as Schedule VI substances in Arkansas. Sen. Tyler Dees and Rep. Jimmy Gazaway co-sponsored the legislation to ban these compounds, arguing that they were being marketed to children and sold at convenience stores where clerks do not verify customers’ IDs.
The decision to ban these compounds followed Arkansas voters’ rejection of a measure to legalize adult-use cannabis in the 2022 election. “These [substances] are essentially recreational marijuana, synthetic recreational marijuana,” said Dees.
Arkansas Drug Director Tom Fisher supported the new law and pointed out that since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate delta-8 products, consumers may not know which of the products are safe to use. “With the lack of regulation and oversight, [it] puts people at risk,” said Fisher.
While the new law takes effect on August 1st, it will still allow delta-8 products to be transported through the state. In anticipation of legal challenges, lawmakers included a trigger clause in the bill that would enact regulations for delta-8 products if a court issues an injunction that bars the state from enforcing the law.
Other states have taken action on delta-8 this year as well. Virginia’s General Assembly approved legislation to more tightly regulate hemp-derived THC products, while Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear signed an executive order to establish a regulatory framework for delta-8, specifically.
Delta-8 THC is a minor cannabinoid that occurs naturally in the cannabis plant. It is similar to delta-9 THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, but differs in its chemical structure. Delta-8 THC is typically extracted from hemp and marketed as a legal and less potent alternative to delta-9 THC.
While delta-8 THC may be legal at the federal level, states have the authority to regulate its use. Many states have banned or restricted the use of delta-8 THC due to concerns over its safety and legality.
One issue with delta-8 THC is that it falls into a legal gray area. While it is derived from hemp, which was made legal under the 2018 Farm Bill, it still remains unclear whether delta-8 THC is legal under federal law. Some argue that delta-8 THC should be considered a controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act because it is derived from cannabis and has psychoactive effects.
Another concern with delta-8 THC is its potential for abuse. Delta-8 THC can produce psychoactive effects similar to those of delta-9 THC but in a milder form. This makes it appealing to people who want to experience a “high” without the intensity of traditional cannabis products.
Furthermore, there are concerns over the purity and quality of delta-8 products. Since these products are not regulated by the FDA, there is no guarantee that they are safe or effective. Consumers may unknowingly purchase products that contain harmful contaminants or inaccurate levels of cannabinoids.
In conclusion, Arkansas has joined other states in banning the use of hemp-derived psychoactive cannabinoids such as delta-8 THC due to concerns over their legality and safety. While these compounds may be legal at the federal level, states have the authority to regulate their use. As more research is conducted on the safety and efficacy of these compounds, we may see changes in their legal status in the future.