TEXAS — Ask a hemp or cannabis enthusiast about their work and they'll share with you a similar passion for the plant. But an emerging cannabis compound known as Delta-8 is creating a bit of a divide. And now lawmakers at the state Capitol could decide to regulate it.
“We’re big believers in what this plant can do for people,” said Morris Denton, CEO of Compassionate Cultivation.
Compassionate Cultivation is the only legal medical marijuana dispensary headquartered in Texas. Denton says he’s seen the medical benefits associated with cannabis in various forms but that Delta-8 remains a grey area.
"Who do you think regulates it now? Nobody. There is a recreational market for THC in the form of Delta-8 that doesn’t impose an age restriction and, you know, that’s concerning because THC is a substance, is a cannibinoid that gets you high,” said Denton.
Zachary Maxwell works with farmers across the state on how to harvest hemp. He’s the president of Texas Hemp Growers and sees things differently.
"Delta-8 is totally changing the market right now," Maxwell said.
Maxwell says the burst in Delta-8’s popularity is good news for the state’s hemp industry.
"Delta-8 isn't made in grow rooms or on farms. It's actually synthesized in the labs that create the CBD oil that we're all familiar with. When those labs are able to sell more oil to the marketplace, it means they're more prone to buy from hemp farmers in this state," said Maxwell.
There's a hemp bill making its way through the state Legislature that includes some tweaks to the current hemp program that would benefit growers across the state.
"It seems odd to us that there can be thousands of CBD stores that are selling 1% THC levels and we're only allowed to have one location for the entire state and we can only sell half the amount of THC. Why is one market is being penalized?" Denton asked.
Hemp farmers and medical cannabis producers currently operate under two separate programs in Texas, which means they’re following different guidelines. Lawmakers have floated the idea of including a ban on Delta-8 in the hemp bill.
"When we hear discussion from the state legislators who are right now meeting about banning Delta-8 across the whole state, we're very concerned about that because we don't want to see these economic opportunities stripped from the hands of farmers," said Maxwell.
"We could create a highly reliable, consistent, high-grade Delta-8 product and sell a ton of it, but we view that market as being really opaque from a legal and legislative, or regulatory perspective, and we don't want to step into a market that lacks that kind of clear definition,” said Denton.
While Denton would like lawmakers to create some clear definitions surrounding THC, Maxwell says if lawmakers do take action, he’d rather see the state treat Delta-8 like alcohol and tobacco. Lawmakers are also on pace to expand the state’s medical cannabis program, which would allow more Texans to use the plant as medicine. It would also increase the amount of THC allowed.