So, what exactly is Delta 8? And why has it become a predicament in Texas?
The substance comes from its chemical makeup, Delta 8 tetrahydrocannabinols (or Delta 8 THC). It’s considered an isomer of Delta 9 THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana. This makes it a good alternative to traditional THC strain and a legal workaround to the Lone Star State’s restrictive laws on possessing cannabis.
However, due to changes in the Texas Department of State Health Service and the arrest of an individual in possession of Delta 8, the tables might have turned and uncertainty is growing.
Texas DSHS updated its guidelines for hemp manufacturers to announce Delta 8 as an illegal Schedule I controlled substance, a category reserved for drugs that have no accepted medical use, such as heroin and LSD. The change came days after the Oct. 2 arrest of a woman who was charged in College Station for felony possession of a cartridge of Delta 8 concentrate, according to reporter Clay Falls of KBTX.
As reported by the Chron, in 2018 Congress passed a massive overhaul to the agriculture industry allowing the legal possession and sale of hemp, declaring it legal as long as the resulting products contained less than 0.3 percent of Delta 9 THC. A year later, the Texas legislature passed a similar bill regulating hemp, and in August 2020 the U.S Drug Enforcement Agency updated its list of controlled substances to reflect the changes made by Congress in 2018.
Anytime the DEA changes its rules on controlled substances, individual states are allowed to choose to adopt them or not. In Texas, that decision is up to the commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Service, currently run by Gov. Greg Abbott appointee John Hellerstedt. In January, Hellerstedt rejected the DEA´s changes in favor of Texas existing and (broad) restrictions on THC – effectively shutting down Delta 8’s path to legality.
Texas health officials have put marijuana extract delta-8 THC on its own list of illegal drugs, three years after federal legislation removed it from the nation’s list of controlled substances, sending a shockwave through the growing CBD retail industry across the state and making the substance, essentially, illegal.
“This is really out of nowhere. It’s not based on science, it’s not based on any real threat to Texans,” Rick Trojan III, a board member of the Hemp Industries Association, said. “The whole thing is confusing for everyone involved. It sounds like DSHS doesn’t even understand why they know what they’re doing.”