DALLAS — Texas Department of State Health Services updated its website last week to clarify that the cannabis product, delta-8, is illegal in Texas, despite many consumers and retailers thinking it was legal under federal law. For many people who use it, the news came as a surprise.
Users assumed that the delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol isomer, delta-8, was legal under the state and federal laws authorizing hemp farming with less than 0.3% d9 THC concentration (0.3% is the legal threshold that distinguishes marijuana from hemp).
One of those consumers is Maria Stanley, a Dallas resident who is confused about what this clarification will mean for delta-8 as a whole moving forward.
"Literally, I have no idea, like can you buy it? Because The Weed Spot in Bishop Arts is somewhere in Dallas that I would like go often and they have the flower," Stanley said. "They have everything you can buy and they'll even like put some in like coffees and things like that too,” Stanley said. "But no yeah, now I'm like ‘What does this mean?’"
Stanley has come to incorporate delta-8 into her daily routine. She says d8 produces a lot less of the anxiety and paranoia some users may experience with delta-9 — that tetrahydrocannabinol is the typical THC that one is referring to when talking about the compound in cannabis that gets you high.
"Some people will have a glass of wine or a beer or two after work as their way of winding down or relaxing. Whereas for me, I use a delta-8 gummy,” Stanley said. "I am a financial analyst working from home right now. So, after a long day of sitting at my desk at my computer, it helps me relax and not feel so anxious about all the things I should be doing or could be doing, and just what I want to do in that moment.”
According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s website, delta-8 THC is the psychoactive substance found in the Cannabis sativa plant (of which marijuana and hemp are two varieties). "Delta-8 THC is one of over 100 cannabinoids produced naturally by the cannabis plant, but is not found in significant amounts in the cannabis plant,” the FDA’s website reads. "The natural amount of delta-8 THC in hemp is very low, and additional chemicals are needed to convert other cannabinoids in hemp, like CBD, into delta-8 THC (i.e., synthetic conversion).” The Drug Enforcement Administration’s website states, "For synthetically derived tetrahydrocannabinols, the concentration of delta-9 THC is not a determining factor in whether the material is a controlled substance. All synthetically derived tetrahydrocannabinols remain schedule I controlled substances."
Texas DSHS declined an interview with Spectrum News 1, citing pending ligation, but a spokeswoman sent a response saying the state's definition of consumable hemp products only addresses delta-9, not any of its THC isomers, like delta-8.
Delta-8 is specifically named on the DEA’s list of Controlled Substances as Schedule I, and THC has been Schedule I in Texas since 1989. Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. This placement puts Tetrahydrocannabinols alongside heroin, LSD and MDMA (ecstasy).
The statement went on to read: "DSHS has not made any changes to the Controlled Substances schedule related to THC since it was published in March 2021. THC was already on Texas’ Schedule I when the Legislature gave scheduling authority to the Commissioner of Health in 1989, and it has remained on Schedule I since that time. At the request of hemp growers who said there was confusion in the industry, DSHS posted the clarification statement at the top of the Consumable Hemp webpage earlier this month. In September 2020, the Commissioner objected to August 2020 DEA rule modifications to the extent that the new language may have allowed for the presence or addition of THCs aside from Delta-9 THC. DSHS held a public hearing in October 2020 to allow for public comment in accordance with the law. We did not receive any public comment and the DEA’s rule modifications were not adopted in Texas.”
"My biggest hope is that in 2022, when it's time to vote for people, we will get some different people in office that will look at (delta-8) and honestly cannabis as a whole in Texas and be like ‘Alright, we're way back here. The rest of the country is moving this way. It's time for us to meet them on up there,’” Stanley said.
Stanley is so passionate about delta-8 because of the effects she’s seen it have on her mental health. She has bad anxiety and has been prescribed Xanax and Ambien in the past. She says her delta-8 gummies have helped her taper off the pills. It also helps her in social settings, now that she’s been sober 18 months.
"I stopped drinking because honestly of the mental health factors that alcohol was having on me. It was making my anxiety really, really bad. I was doing really stupid stuff when I was drinking. It kind of felt like any social setting, there had to be alcohol,” Stanley said. “So, I decided to cut it out and kind of explore what else I can do for, you know, my mental health and anxiety that's not so damaging.”
Stanley went the d8 route about a year and a half ago when she quit drinking, specifically because it was “legal” and she could buy directly from the producers.
“I was able to know the true amount of milligrams each gummy was versus, you know, going through somebody, who's going through somebody, who is getting it from Colorado,” Stanley said. “The fact that it was legal and there were carriers and shops that you can even go in person and see it and not have to just do it online, made all the difference.”
But she doesn’t know where to turn, now that the state has clarified the illegality of delta-8.
"Overall it's just like ‘alright, so is it time to like go back to those Xanaxes or those Ambiens or like what,' what else to do?” Stanley questioned. "I take one, I take two, I take five of these (gummies), the next day I'm fine. Like I wake up at six, I go for my workout. It's not like you're having five drinks, it's not like you're taking Ambien, like some of those prescription medications that really make me feel bad. And I'm on a couple other things for anxiety, but when in the moment I like feel the panic and I feel the anxiety, I'll take this, I'll take a couple hits of this and I'm better, more like level-headed, more just able to relax.”
Stanley and other delta-8 users like her want to see Texas cannabis laws change to join the rest of the country that is choosing to move toward a “greener” future.