Delta-8 Cannabis Compound Is Legal, Says Federal Appeals Court

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The 2018 farm bill effectively legalized products containing cannabis compound delta-8 THC, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The court’s ruling helps bring some clarity to what has been a murky zone for a few years, as more companies have begun marketing and selling joints and vape products containing the hemp-derived compound.

“Following the passage of the 2018 farm bill, delta-8 THC and some other minor cannabinoids entered a sort of legal gray area,” notes Marijuana Moment‘s Ben Adlin. “Many businesses in the hemp industry insisted the products were legal, but officials in many jurisdictions disagreed.”

The 2018 farm bill legalized hemp and its derivatives so long as they contained no more than 0.3 percent delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Delta-9 THC—often referred to simply as THC—is the main psychoactive substance in cannabis and is unambiguously banned under federal and many state laws. But things are more unclear when it comes to delta-8 THC, a delta-9 THC isomer that is only found in trace amounts in cannabis plants.

“Products containing delta-8-THC became widely available in most of the USA following the 2018 Farm Bill and by late 2020 were core products of hemp processing companies, especially where delta-9-THC use remained illegal or required medical authorization,” note researchers in a paper published earlier this year in the Journal of Cannabis Research. “Delta-8-THC may provide much of the experiential benefits of delta-9-THC with lesser adverse effects,” they point out.

While the 9th Circuit’s ruling may seem unambiguously good, Dale Gieringer, California director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), told the San Francisco Chronicle that he was troubled by it.

“The court is federally legalizing a psychoactive cannabinoid about which relatively little is known, while keeping the amply studied Delta-9 illegal,” said Gieringer. “It makes more sense to legalize Delta-9, which has been studied exhaustively in thousands of subjects and research protocols over the decades.”

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