What Makes delta-8 Controversial?

While cannabis is becoming more and more legalized throughout America, there are still concerns regarding the subject of federal legality due to the nature of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol being psychoactive. Right now, the focus has shifted to its little brother delta-8 THC, which is said to be safer, less potent, and possibly more beneficial.

This topic first came up after the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill that had somehow legalized its production, so long as it comes from hemp plants that contain less than 0.3% THC. While the intention of the bill wasn’t simply to make THC legal across the board, it did leave a big enough hole to let it slip through, which some may find to be contentious.

Perhaps delta-8 being a constituent of tetrahydrocannabinol is in itself what makes it somewhat controversial as well. Let’s look more into what makes delta-8 such a hotly debated topic in the realm of cannabis legalization and commercialization.

The delta-8 Craze

The growing popularity of delta-8 THC has seen it become available everywhere, from upscale boutiques to truck stops and dispensaries. It’s being seen as the light version of the cannabis that most people recognize. Most people are latching onto it because of how it’s purported to have less side effects than regular delta-9 THC while still retaining much of the benefits.

This cannabinoid is being sold mostly as an anxiolytic, mood enhancer, and sleep aid. It can help you relax, stay calm, and get restful sleep. In this world full of panic and stress, such a substance that works just as well, if not better, than pharmaceutical options in calming one’s nerves is bound to be lucrative. It can be something that you can just pick up from a store and consume without fear of side effects that many of its pharmaceutical counterparts tend to have.

For the hemp industry, the worry is delta-8 ending up being a passing fad. While its benefits are becoming more well-known and indeed good, it remains to be seen how many people will actually use it for what it’s supposed to be used for. Is delta-8 actually helping people in the real world? More and more good stories about cannabidiol (CBD) come out every single day, and the hope is delta-8 will have the same.

However, much of what makes delta-8 controversial comes from two things. First is how it’s produced from hemp, which makes use of a loophole in the 2018 Farm Bill that allows for hemp—cannabis plants containing less than 0.3% THC—to be processed legally. While it’s technically legal, it does raise eyebrows, especially that of skeptics and critics of cannabis.

Second is how delta-8 and its bigger sibling can appear in products that supposedly should not contain it, especially CBD products. Having people buy stuff that’s not shouldn’t be psychoactive, but then experience psychoactive effects from them, can be problematic. But with the nature of cannabis-derived products, that has been going on lately.

Compounding that is the widening availability of delta-8 in various products with different delivery methods. There are delta-8 products that can be vaped, smoked, eaten, consumed sublingually, and even applied on the skin. As of right now, regulations are loose with delta-8 products that are sold in stores that resemble dispensaries.

That’s where most of the controversy lies. The long-term commercial viability of delta-8 relies upon clearing up its still fuzzy legal status.

Response from State Law Enforcement

There have been raids on business establishments that sell delta-8 products. For instance, a vape shop in Clinton, South Carolina was raided in March 2021 and an inventory of delta-8 products was seized. While it’s true that the 2018 Farm Bill has made it legal to produce delta-8 from hemp, cannabis is illegal for recreational use in South Carolina. The state only allows for use of low-THC CBD oil for certain medical conditions.

Clinton police cited SC Law 44-53-0190 that classifies delta-8 THC as a controlled substance.  Therefore, their seizure of that vape shop’s inventory of delta-8 products was justified, despite the 2018 Farm Bill. Since delta-8 is itself THC, whatever states laws that prohibit high levels of THC will see delta-8 as a controlled substance. After all, there are no “levels” of THC delta-8—it is THC. Mincing words about it is like arguing about water that’s less wet.

With that definition, CBD products pass the test, while delta-8 doesn’t. That puts delta-8 in a precarious position in states where cannabis is not fully legalized. Even if there’s federal law that may somehow allow it, state laws will keep it behind lock and key. Because of this, there still are hotly-contested debates and fights for full legalization of cannabis across the board.

The Truth About delta-8

The most important fact about delta-8 is that it can still get you high. While it has less of those effects than delta-9 THC, it still does retain some psychoactive effects. The only difference between delta-8 and delta-9 is the placement of a single double bond in its molecular structure.

While delta-8 may indeed be better than delta-9 in some aspects, it’s not head and shoulders above it. It may not even be so much gentler than delta-9. While its side effects are more muted, it may not apply for everyone. Everyone is different; some may be more or less sensitive to one form of THC or the other. When starting out with THC, whether it’s delta-8 or delta-9, it’s important to start with a low dose and gradually increase it over time until you hit the sweet spot.

Also, just because something has become widely available, doesn’t mean its safety is guaranteed. This is especially true for delta-8, with which its regulation is akin to snake oil during the Old West. Even if you get delta-8 from a reputable brand, use it with caution.


Due diligence through checking labels and lab reports on delta-8 THC products is best practice, making sure that you consume only well-regulated delta-8 products from reputable brands and sources. Nothing replaces being doubly sure of what you’re consuming.

Once more people start consuming delta-8, more regulation will be necessary. As that regulation becomes the norm, quality of products will be better defined and less fuzzy.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published