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What is Delta 8 THC and why is it considered 'legal weed' in Texas?

A lush green plant is creating buzz in Texas as the cannabis industry is booming, despite federal and state law banning marijuana.
The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp plants, which contain extremely low concentrations of the psychoactive compound Delta 9 THC.

That's the THC typically found in pot which gives users a high.

Entrepreneurs are now extracting any compound they want from the hemp plants and have narrowed in on Delta 8 THC.

They're making products including edibles, tinctures, and smokables with it.

Delta 8 THC isn't as strong as Delta 9 THC.

You'll likely spot the Delta 8 products in stores around the Greater Houston like at HydroShack Hydroponics on West 20th Street in The Heights which sells Oilwell Cannabis products.

"Demand is like this," said Chris Powers, the owner of HydroShack Hydroponics, as he made a gesture with his arm showing an upward-moving graph. "People are grateful that we're here and selling it. Very grateful. That's the feeling I get."

Colin Valencia with Oilwell said the products offer therapeutic benefits at affordable prices. Valencia remained unabashed by his enthusiasm for them. He offered a pretty blunt explanation about how some might use Delta 8.

"Why would someone want to smoke that?" asked ABC13 reporter Steve Campion.

"I don't give a sh** if it's wrong to say you'll get high off it," said Valencia. "Maybe you want to get high."

Dr. Michael Weaver, an addictions specialist with UTHealth and UT Physicians, said Delta 8 is chemically close to Delta 9 so he'd expect similar effects to the human body.

Long-term effects of using the products still remain unknown, according to Weaver.

"Delta 8 hasn't been looked at, so we just don't know. We're gathering data now, so the more people who use, the more information we'll have. You probably don't want to be a guinea pig just yet," he said. "We know Delta 9 THC is habit forming. Delta 8 THC is likely to have that property as well. If you're using it, you may find it's harder to stop than you thought."

ABC13 then asked him if he would advise anyone to take it.

"I think there is not enough information to say it's good to try," said Weaver. "The safest thing I can say is we don't know enough about it to make a recommendation. Don't try it until we know more."

Experts said using Delta 8 THC will likely lead to failed drug tests for employees.

Heather Fazio with Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy told ABC13 some lawmakers already want to ban Delta 8 products in the state.
She said the conversation should be on regulation, not prohibition.

"We're seeing the market become innovative. Entrepreneurs getting creative with the ways they can abide by the law and still provide their customers with the product they would like," said Fazio. "What we're looking at here is simply the result of supply and demand. We know there is a demand for cannabis products in the state of Texas. Unfortunately, our state continues to deprive legitimate business owners of the opportunity to sell these products in a regulated way, products that are tested that are labeled appropriately."

The Drug Enforcement Administration released the following statement to Eyewitness News when asked for comment on the legality of Delta 8.

The agency responded with the following statement but did not address any specific questions.

Delta 8 THC was added to the controlled substances list in August 2020 on an interim basis while pending final disposition. As DEA is currently undergoing the rulemaking process regarding the implementation of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 - which includes the scope of regulatory controls over marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinols, and other marijuana-related constituents - we would be unable to comment on an any impact in legality of tetrahydrocannabinols, Delta 8 included, until the process is complete. We are in the process of reviewing thousands of comments and do not speculate on what could happen as a result.

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