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DEA Attempts To Block New Cannabis Product After It Draws Similarities To Marijuana

Hand holding bottle of Cannabis oil in pipette, Hemp oil, medical marijuana concept, CBD cannabis OIL. hemp product.
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Hand holding bottle of Cannabis oil in pipette, Hemp oil, medical marijuana concept, CBD cannabis OIL. hemp product.

When Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill it cleared the way for hemp to be grown across the United States. Hemp comes from the cannabis plant which is mostly known for its ability to produce marijuana which remains illegal. The difference between the two is simple: one gets you high, the other doesn’t. However, some store owners have recently started selling a version of hemp that produces a similar effect as marijuana, effectively blurring the lines. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration has attempted to ban the new product, but that’s not deterred business owners who are now exploiting a legal loophole.

"The definition of marijuana is cannabis that is above .3 Delta-9-THC plus THCA times .877," said Alex Petrick, a hemp distributor."Delta-8 on the other hand is not mentioned anywhere regarding marijuana in any situation or context."

Petrick has come up with what he sees as a unique marketing opportunity. He is out with a new product: Delta-8-THC. All those letters he just mentioned: It’s how the federal government defines what constitutes marijuana. Federal law, says marijuana is anything above .3 Delta-9 and therefore illegal. Petrick’s new product is Delta-8. And he says the two Delta’s are not the same.

"If I use a Delta-9-THC product from a medical marijuana treatment center it creates a euphoric high that can last anywhere from two to four hours," said Petrick. "Delta-8 on the other hand is very quick in and quick out, it’s an effect that lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half."

The product is so similar to marijuana, the federal drug enforcement agency, tried to ban it in August. The agency argues it’s a synthetic drug, and synthetic drugs are also illegal.

But the attempt to ban the high-inducing CBD has run into headwinds. For one, the DEA is trying to ban it by rule, not by law. And That new rule is being challengedby the Hemp Industries Association. Board member Tim Gordon is the Scientific Officer for a CBD and Hemp company. And he says Delta-8 is in no way synthetic.

"So it’s present for a little bit in the plant. But how guys are doing it in California and some guys out here they’re using a CBD concentrate and using that to convert into a Delta-8-THC molecule," said Gordon.

He says there’s nothing natural about synthetic drugs:

"Hence some of those crazy reactions we have read about in regards to using spice and those kinds of things," Gordons said. "I would highly recommend everybody not to touch that stuff."

Gordon believes the rule by the DEA will be overturned in court since the Farm Bill legalized all parts of the hemp plant.

"They would have to amend the Controlled Substances Act to include Delta-8 specifically and I can’t see them doing that," said Gordon. "Number two just like you mentioned we legalized hemp and all the cannabinoids present in hemp so Delta-8 happens to be one of them."

The product is so new, several law enforcement agencies contacted by WFSU, including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement were not aware of it. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office says it’s reviewing the DEA’s action. State Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who oversees Florida’s hemp program, says Delta-8-THC is likely here to stay.

"As long as they are following the rules regarding the Delta-9 and it collectively doesn’t get us over the threshold of the .3 then we are not taking it off the market," said Fried.

Blaise Gainey is a State Government Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.