Should Your Cannabis Business Get Involved with Delta-8 and Unregulated Variants?

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When the 2018 farm bill legalized hemp and hemp-derived CBD products, the nation rejoiced. Finally, those in legally restricted locations and jobs can enjoy the relaxation and pain relief of the cannabis plant without risk. Suddenly, CBD products were in high demand in both legal and non-legal states. The hemp-related farm bill has offered a valuable product expansion for cannabis manufacturing brands and their customers. But the recent Delta-8 craze, derived from hemp-cannabis, leads to thornier issues on approach.

Should your cannabis business jump on the Delta-8 bandwagon (along with other recently discovered variants) or hang back in the secure markets of THC and CBD alone? Let’s take a deeper look at the issue and why brands are expanding cautiously, if at all, into this new market.

What Exactly is Delta-8, Anyway?

Delta-8 can be defined as a synthetic THC derived from the CBD of hemp plants.

The THC we know and regulate is Delta-9. The essential cannabinoid is known for the psychotropic effects of cannabis including euphoria, mental haze, and appetite increase. CBD is more closely related to pain relief, inflammation reduction, and system regulation. Delta-8 takes CBD and synthesizes the cannabinoid until it more closely resembles THC, Delta-9. 

It has been described as a “milder” high with the same group of symptoms including increased appetite, reduced anxiety and pain, euphoria, and mild psychotropic effects. Many people refer to it as “THC Lite”.

What is the Legal Standing of Delta-8?

Officially, anything derived from hemp plants tested at less than 0.3% Delta 9 THC is federally legal. For now, Delta-8 is gray-area legal under the 2018 Farm bill because it is derived from industrial hemp and is not Delta 9 THC. However, many expect national policy to clear up this legal gray-area and officially ban Delta 8.

That said, 19 of 50 states have already preemptively banned or restricted Delta-8, including Colorado where cannabis is well known to be legal in all or most other forms.

Why? Delta-8 is too new to have been thoroughly tested and the enthusiasm about this “legal high” loophole has led to many companies producing untested and potentially dangerous altered cannabinoid products. Colorado is concerned that under-regulated products put customers at risk and also makes it clear that altering CBD into a new compound defies the definition of an industrial-hemp product.

Why Existing Cannabis Companies Should Likely Stay Away from Delta-8 and Other Variants

The Regulation Roller Coaster

Established cannabis manufacturers today have already been through the regulation roller coaster with normal cannabis and CBD products alone. With Delta-8 seeing a similar (and less approving) legal landscape ahead, developing your Delta-8 synthesizing lab is likely to see the same potential for interruption, loss, and cancellation. If your state(s) of operation has not already restricted Delta-8, the regulations are sure to be seen in the future as safety, byproducts, and spirit-of-the-law updates develop in the near future.

Considering Safety Testing

In addition, Delta-8 and similar variants are new enough that tests for human safety have not had a chance to produce clear results. While people who have taken Delta-8 claim to enjoy the mild THC-like effects, the long-term effects have yet to prove out and may be potentially harmful.

In short, a brand that has gone through the difficulty of getting licensed and risks losing licenses for risky products has more to gain from avoiding experimental molecular variants than from the brief boost in sales before regulations develop.

Which Cannabis Businesses Should Consider Selling Delta-8?

  • CBD brands in non-THC states
  • Startups with more to gain than lose
  • Smoke shops where Delta-8 is a very small slice of inventory

So who should be selling Delta-8? Demand for Delta-8 is the highest in states where cannabis is illegal or medical-only, and Delta-8 is not yet regulated or banned. This is exactly the loophole Delta-8 was designed to provide for: people who want the effects of THC but legally cannot access it close to home.

This puts it firmly in the purview of CBD startups in states where THC is illegal. While an established legal-state enterprise should avoid the chaos of a gray-area regulation product, startups have less to lose and a lot more to gain. Delta-8 is also one of those experimental products often sold in by brave smoke shops and convenience stores who can afford to pull it from the shelves or adapt this small section of their inventory should local regulations soon pass. Regardless of what type of company you have, make sure to thoroughly research Delta-8 before considering it.

Marketing to Customers Seeking Delta-8 Products

What is the best strategy for a cautious cannabis brand looking to keep their license and please customers curious about Delta-8?

There are two primary draws for CBD-derived Delta-8. The first is that it has mild THC symptoms and may appeal to customers who aren’t looking for the “highest high” which has been the product trend for legal cannabis trends. For these customers, consider developing your own “THC Lite” lines of milder strains bred for soft symptoms that are more productive for work-at-home users.

The second draw is that it is derived from CBD. Let your customers know that Delta-8 and similar variants will test as THC, not CBD, in a drug test and instead provide a line of fully THC-free CBD products for those in substance-restrictive jobs and non-legal states.

Should your cannabis business get involved with Delta-8 and other unregulated synthesized THC molecules? If you want to avoid the hassle of near-future regulation and the risk of being associated with products of untested risk, the answer is probably ‘no’. For more insights, news, or software solutions in the cannabis industry, contact us today.

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