In the months since delta-8 THC has exploded into popularity, debate over its legality and how to regulate it has pervaded regulators, law enforcement, and the hemp and cannabis industries. While the cannabinoid is naturally occurring in cannabis, many in the hemp industry have begun to convert it from CBD. It has provided a lucrative avenue for hemp producers and processors to sell CBD product that has otherwise lost much of its value over the course of two years, but its psychoactive effects have others questioning in which market it belongs—if any at all.
The main question at hand: Should delta-8 be regulated as hemp or in the state-legal cannabis market?
A recent Cannabis Business Times/Hemp Grower survey of nearly 300 respondents working in the hemp and cannabis industries demonstrates just how controversial this question is.
When asked whether delta-8 should be produced and sold in the hemp marketplace, nearly half of respondents said yes. Meanwhile, nearly 60% of respondents said delta-8 should be produced and sold in the state-legal cannabis marketplace. (Respondents could select the hemp market, cannabis market, both or neither.)
The nearly even split among responses is indicative of the conflicting attitudes in both the hemp and cannabis industries surrounding delta-8.
How to Categorize Delta-8
Out of 295 respondents to the CBT/HG survey, 66 work directly in the cannabis industry (either growing, manufacturing or selling), and 196 work directly in the hemp industry. (The rest of respondents selected “other,” with responses ranging from prospective business owners and consultants to bankers and journalists.)
When asked whether delta-8 should be produced and sold in the hemp marketplace:
51% of respondents said yes;35% of respondents said no;8% said they aren’t sure;6% said under certain circumstances.
Meanwhile, when asked whether delta-8 should be produced and sold in the cannabis marketplace:
59% of respondents said yes;23% of respondents said no;12% said they aren’t sure;6% said under certain circumstances.
Responses yielded similar results when broken down by those who work in the cannabis industry and those who work in the hemp industry.
How Should Delta-8 Be Regulated?
Respondents offered a plethora of answers when asked: “What, if any, regulations would you like to see addressing delta-8 THC production and/or sale in the hemp and/or cannabis industries?”
The most common response, in summary: No additional regulations are needed.
“There is a place for everything, and the cannabis industry is starting to get greedy and push heavy regulations to the hemp industry that should not exist,” one respondent wrote.
“We have enough nonsense regulations,” another commented, summing up the viewpoint of several who argue against additional regulations for the hemp industry in particular, where delta-8 is most frequently produced and sold.
The second-most popular answer was that delta-8 should be regulated like state-legal cannabis or, more specifically, delta-9 THC.
“Delta-8 is outside the spirit of the Farm Bill, and [it] gives the hemp industry a black eye,” one person noted.
“Any cannabis or hemp product that can produce intoxicating effects should be treated, regulated, restricted (age) and taxed as such,” another wrote.
“It’s psychoactive, so it should be regulated like delta-9. It creates unnecessary competition for smokable flower, whether it’s CBDV, CBG, CBD. Better for small farmers to regulate separately. They would still be able to sell biomass to THC-regulated markets, which seem to be growing,” commented another.
Other popular responses included implementing testing, production and purity standards for finished products to ensure consistent products and safety among consumers.
One survey respondent wrote: “This is a critical time for the hemp industry. Standards for extraction and manufacturing [are] critical. Ensuring we are setting those standards to ensure they are not out of reach for small businesses is also critical. This country is built on the backs of small business. I would point to the beer industry as an example: They have manufacturing standards that are achievable by Budweiser and microbreweries alike. Ice cream manufacturers, both Breyers Ice Cream and Cold Stone Creamery, are required to follow the same basic standards even though they are very different business models.”
Note: Responses were summarized from full written responses.
Whichever side of the coin respondents fall on, it’s clear many have strong feelings about the current status of delta-8 as a largely unregulated substance produced in the hemp industry. (However, a growing number of states are beginning to regulate it.)
While delta-8 does occur naturally in small amounts in cannabis, some take issue with the fact that most (if not all) product on the market is currently produced synthetically.
“The residual solvents used to produce it and left in the product consumers are ingesting should be enough to create enforcement … [and] stop the production and sale of it immediately!” one survey respondent commented.
“The manipulation of the molecular structure of one product to morph it into another should not be dismissed and ignored. This product is untested in the general cannabis community in the United States and across the world. It should have as much, if not more, oversight than marijuana,” noted another.
Several suggested that this debate over the cannabinoid—and even the market for the cannabinoid itself—only exists because cannabis is still illegal at a federal level.
“Legalize it all at the federal level and this won’t be a conversation,” one person wrote.
“Seems like delta-8 only exists really because delta-9 [THC] is illegal. If delta-9 was legal, [there’d] be no need to synthesize delta-8. We’d all just extract delta-9,” commented another person.
“The delta-8 craze is nothing more than a loophole around antiquated laws regarding marijuana. People want to get high, and delta-8 is ‘not illegal’ even though it should be,” another respondent noted. “Legalize marijuana in all 50 states and put a stop to this delta-8 nonsense. Let people use the plant the way God made it.”
Editor’s note: Written responses were lightly edited for grammar and clarity.
About the Survey
The data from this story was collected by Cannabis Business Times/Hemp Grower/Cannabis Dispensary via an online survey, which was sent to all emailable, active, qualified subscribers to either publication’s magazine and/or e-newsletter from July 21 to July 24, 2021. The survey was closed for tabulation with 295 responses.