The 2018 US Farm Bill created quite a stir by legalizing the production and manufacture of hemp products. With it came a possible loophole for products like delta-8 THC, which can be sourced from hemp. Now, that legal conundrum has gotten even more intense as products containing what is called ‘legal delta-9 THC’ are now available. Are these products legal? And are they worth it?
The world is definitely a changing place when legal delta-9 THC can be found on shelves. Truth is, it might not be completely legal, but it definitely is available. This is also true of compounds like delta-8 THC, delta-10, THCP, THCO, THCV, HHC and more. The cannabis world has gotten so big, that new products are coming out nearly every day. We’ve got a great overall selection of deals, and plenty of other products for you to check out and try for yourself.
Delta-9 THC, sometimes just referred to erroneously as simply ‘THC’, is the primary psychoactive compound of the cannabis plant, and is responsible for the feelings of euphoria that come with use of the plant. Delta-9 is actually only a version of THC, which itself stands for tetrahydrocannabinols, and refers to several different compounds, not just delta-9. Often the term ‘THC’ will be used in place of ‘delta-9’, but in reality, the true name of the compound is not ‘THC’.
Plants that are higher in delta-9 than CBD, are called marijuana, with the federal cutoff being over .3% delta-9 in dry weight as the standard for ‘marijuana’. Cannabis with less delta-9 than this, is referred to as ‘hemp.’ Whereas hemp was legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill, high-THC marijuana, was not.
Delta-9 THC has been on the Controlled Substances list since its inception in 1970. Prior to that, the new age of prohibition started in 1937 with the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act, which stopped medicinal and recreational use, as well as stunting the hemp market. At that time, the hemp market contributed to tons of different industries, from building, to clothing, to paper, and so on. Delta-9 THC has this chemical formula: C₂₁H₃₀O₂, which is the same as CBD, as well as other cannabinoids like CBC (Cannabichromene) and CBL (cannabicyclo), and even the sex hormone progesterone.
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Is it legal?
No, and I’m going to be honest, I’m not sure where the debate on this one comes in. Here’s why… According to the 2018 US Farm Bill: ‘hemp’ means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.’
This definition includes extracts, so if something is extracted, like delta-9, it couldn’t legally be extracted in a higher percent than .3. To make matters worse for the claim, not only does the definition apply to the plant in question for production, but all products produced from it, and all parts of the processing procedure. If the delta-9 amount rises above .3% at any given point, then the product becomes illegal. Since these products are above .3% delta-9, they are automatically illegal.
There has been an ongoing debate about compounds like delta-8 THC, a naturally occurring oxidized version of delta-9. Though delta-8 occurs naturally through this oxidation process, it occurs at extremely low rates. This means, in order to make products with it, it must be synthesized in a laboratory, and this can then mean the use of chemicals or processes that can be dangerous. Since delta-8 can’t simply be extracted, it brings up the question of whether it should be considered natural or synthetic. Sure it occurs naturally in nature, but any product we use of it is synthesized. As a synthetic, it’s automatically illegal. Of course, there are other issues with delta-8, but this is a big one.
The difference with delta-8 and delta-9 in this regard, is that delta-9 is specifically mentioned in the definition of hemp, and so there is no question. It doesn’t matter where delta-9 is produced from, as any product that has over .3% of it would be illegal anyway on a federal level. Whereas the Farm Bill creates what appears to be a loophole for delta-8 (which really isn’t technically there), there’s really no such illusion with delta-9.
Is something illegal if you can’t do anything about it?
This, of course, brings up the question of why ‘legal delta-9 THC’ products are being advertised as legal, when there is no legal basis for them. And the answer, as far as I can tell, is actually pretty basic. Vendors can get away with advertising legal delta-9 THC, because no one’s going to do anything about it. And this begs the question, if there are no actual repercussions to an illegal activity, is it actually illegal?
The idea of ‘illegal’ depends on punishment. After all, if something is stated as illegal, but there’s never a punishment for it, it creates a form of a loophole. It’s not technically legal, sure, but anyone participating also won’t have to worry about criminal repercussions. It’s a strange loophole that exists, which can be created by different factors. In this case, the factors seem to be related to the ability to police the industry, which considering how many unregulated cannabis compounds are being sold from illegal dispensaries, isn’t happening.
Taking a step back, and looking at the whole war on drugs, confirms that point further. The US government was never able to stop any kind of illegal cannabis trade, and has been generally weakened by the majority of its states adopting policies that go against federal mandate. Plus, the government has gotten plenty of backlash in the past for continuously attempting to give criminal penalties to people legally using by state law. It’s honestly hard to imagine the government really being able to do anything about it at this juncture.
What about actual legal THC?
Truth is, the US government knows it has to pass a bill very soon since it can’t keep its states under control. This can be seen in different places. One big giveaway is a state like North Carolina, and its republican-led medical cannabis bill. Republican representatives have made no bones in that state about understanding that the population wants it, and that they must comply if they want to keep their seats.
On a bigger level, the US government has two bills currently working their way through Congress, which would each work to end cannabis prohibition, though in slightly different ways, and with different laws and regulatory measures. The MORE Act, is a decriminalization act, which would also work as somewhat of a legalization measure. This is because it institutes tax rates on cannabis products, something that can’t be done in a simply decriminalized market.
A tax rate makes it on the up and up. Decriminalization only refers to a lack of criminal penalties; and decriminalization measures generally come with some kind of minor, non-criminal punishment. This bill passed the House last year, but didn’t make it to the Senate before adjournment. It’s up for another House vote this year to continue on.
Then there’s the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, which is a full-on legalization bill introduced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. This would go further than the MORE Act, though they would both drop cannabis from the Controlled Substances list. This bill would also drop Section 280E from the IRS tax code, which would work to allow cannabis operators to access the same tax deductions as other businesses. Both bills come with their own structures for tax and regulation, with the Opportunity Act proposing much higher tax rates, but allowing for things like interstate sales.
Is it worth it?
In my opinion, absolutely not! And I doubt many people will care much for it. We have a stable and working black market for good weed in America, and 18 states with legal dispensaries (or which soon will have them if they haven’t gotten there yet). It’s not the idea of it being technically illegal, so much as simply unnecessary. Weed is accessible, that’s why the government has always had such a hard time stopping the industry.
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The more confounding issue in my mind, is that rather than just using the plant to access delta-9, this would mean using synthetization techniques, which in this case, are sort of ridiculous. The debate exists with delta-8, because you can’t access a large enough amount naturally, and it has good enough qualities to make synthesizing it worthwhile. We can access delta-9. Pretty much anywhere in the world.
This doesn’t mean it can’t be useful, especially if its sold in places where cannabis is illegal recreationally, and perhaps harder for some to get. Although I have to question if in such places, it would be wise to expect to see these products on any shelves. If so, then perhaps its something in place of nothing. Otherwise, apart from mild curiosity, my best guess is that this is a misplaced venture that will be invalidated before it has time to really catch on anyway.
Legal or not, it seems like delta-9 THC is being sourced from low-THC hemp, and sold as a (legal) product. Maybe I’m wrong and legal delta-9 THC will be the next big thing, but in a country on the brink of a legalization/decriminalization, and with the ability to easily get real cannabis in most places, I don’t think this is anything more than a gimmick, and not the best one I’ve seen.
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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advise, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.