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What is Delta 8? The legal hemp product giving people a ‘light high’ in SC

Updated: Mar. 22, 2021 at 10:58 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A popular type of hemp product that can give users a high similar to that of marijuana is popping up around South Carolina and the rest of the country.

Delta 8 promises to help one relax, improve appetite and alleviate nausea, but can also mimic to a lesser degree the psychotropic effects of marijuana.

“It’s been a revival to our industry and revival for our business. People are going absolutely crazy for it,” Charlotte CBD co-owner Michael Sims says.

Both Delta 8 THC and Delta 9 THC are found in a hemp plant. Delta 9 THC is most found in marijuana and is a controlled substance in South Carolina.

The Vice President of Research at the University of South Carolina, Dr. Prakash Nagarkatti, calls Delta 8 the “little cousin” of Delta 9. He said while Delta 9 is more commonly found in a hemp or marijuana plant, Delta 8 is also one of the more than120 cannabinoids in the plant.

“The cat’s out of the bag anyway. Delta 9 and 8 THC are not very far apart as far as the health effects, side effects, whatever, they are right there along with each other,” Sims said. “We are already in legalization. It’s happening.”

Delta 8 is sold legally in the state under the 2018 Farm Bill. It is only a few atomic bonds different from Delta 9, according to Nargarkatti and Sims.

Sims said Delta 8 has become a large part of his business, which he says is now expanding and hiring more staff. He says it is especially popular in states where marijuana is not legal.

But he says there have been reports of law enforcement seizing raw forms of the plant or asking stores to sell the plant itself to customers.

“It takes a vast amount of knowledge to really know these products, know how they are formed, how they are grown, how they are processed,” Sims says. “So I think we do at least need a gatekeeper or some type of regulatory system in place to make sure people are doing what are best practices for people’s health and for the economy.”

Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, is sponsoring a medical marijuana bill set to be taken up in a Senate committee in a couple of weeks.

Davis says because there is a huge demand for hemp products and marijuana, he wants to pass a bill that will regulate all of these products.

“The regulations are just wholly inadequate right now,” Davis said of the marijuana and CBD industry. “It is up to us in the General Assembly to figure out a way that our citizens can safely and legally access this product. Forcing them out there into the black market, forcing them to go out into the street to get something that might be adulterated that they don’t know what’s in it. That’s not responsible.”

Davis said the main opposition and concerns he has around the medical marijuana bill comes from law enforcement.

The South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division did not have a comment on Delta 8. But in previous interviews, SLED Chief Mark Keel advocated for more research, FDA regulations and noted it’s difficult for law enforcement officials to tell the difference between hemp products.

Sims also said edible products are technically regulated by the FDA, but he says in his experience products are rarely tested and rules surrounding CBD and Delta 8 are not often enforced.

Sims says people should do their research on any company before buying Delta 8 products and contact their doctor before using it at all.

Delta 8 THC can also make a user fail a drug test, Sims says.

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