A bill making Delta-8 THC a banned substance in Alabama, like its close cannabinoid cousin – Delta 9, has been introduced in the Alabama legislature.

Senate Bill 144 was introduced on Tuesday, Feb. 1. It is sponsored by State Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence).

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as Delta-8 THC, is a psychoactive substance found in the Cannabis sativa plant, of which marijuana and hemp are two varieties. Delta-8 THC is one of over 100 cannabinoids produced naturally by the cannabis plant but is not found in significant amounts in the cannabis plant. As a result, concentrated amounts of Delta-8 THC are typically manufactured from hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD)."

Existing law lists tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as a Schedule I controlled substance, but the law explicitly exempts THC found in hemp. Hemp processors extract cannabidiol oil (CBD) from the flowers of the hemp plant. Someone who distills CBD can then distill Delta-8 THC and other cannabinoids out of the CBD. Delta-8, Delta-10, Delta-12 and other of these cannabinoids are being legally sold over the counter across Alabama and are found in a number of products.

Delta-9 THC is the psychoactive component that gives marijuana the high that is associated with it and is presently illegal in Alabama.

Delta-8 is often marketed as “marijuana lite.” It has about 25% of the potency as a similar dose of Delta-9.

This bill would provide that only non-psychoactive cannabinols derived from or found in hemp are exempt from the Schedule I controlled substances list.

“It is important for consumers to be aware that Delta-8 THC products have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA for safe use in any context,” the FDA warned. “Delta-8 THC products have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA for safe use and may be marketed in ways that put the public health at risk.

“Some concerns include variability in product formulations and product labeling, other cannabinoid and terpene content, and variable Delta-8 THC concentrations. Additionally, some of these products may be labeled simply as “hemp products,” which may mislead consumers who associate “hemp” with “non-psychoactive.”

Furthermore, the FDA is concerned by the proliferation of products that contain Delta-8 THC and are marketed for therapeutic or medical uses, although they have not been approved by the FDA. Selling unapproved products with unsubstantiated therapeutic claims is not only a violation of federal law but also can put consumers at risk, as these products have not been proven to be safe or effective. This deceptive marketing of unproven treatments raises significant public health concerns because patients and other consumers may use them instead of approved therapies to treat serious and even fatal diseases.

“From December 2020 through July 2021, the FDA received adverse event reports from both consumers and law enforcement describing 22 patients who consumed Delta-8 THC products; of these, 14 presented to a hospital or emergency room for treatment following the ingestion,” FDA reports. “Of the 22 patients, 19 experienced adverse events after ingesting Delta-8 THC-containing food products (e.g., brownies, gummies). Adverse events included vomiting, hallucinations, trouble standing, and loss of consciousness. National poison control centers received 661 exposure cases of Delta-8 THC products between January 2018 and July 31, 2021, 660 of which occurred between January 1, 2021, and July 31, 2021. Of the 661 exposure cases: 41% involved unintentional exposure to Delta-8 THC and 77% of these unintentional exposures affected pediatric patients less than 18 years of age. Some 39% involved pediatric patients less than 18 years of age 18% required hospitalizations, including children who required intensive care unit (ICU) admission following exposure to these products.

“The FDA is also concerned that Delta-8 THC products likely expose consumers to much higher levels of the substance than are naturally occurring in hemp cannabis raw extracts," the FDA states. "Thus, historical use of cannabis cannot be relied upon in establishing a level of safety for these products in humans. The natural amount of Delta-8 THC in hemp is very low, and additional chemicals are needed to convert other cannabinoids in hemp, like CBD, into Delta-8 THC (i.e., synthetic conversion). Concerns with this process include: Some manufacturers may use potentially unsafe household chemicals to make Delta-8 THC through this chemical synthesis process. Additional chemicals may be used to change the color of the final product. The final Delta-8 THC product may have potentially harmful by-products (contaminants) due to the chemicals used in the process, and there is uncertainty with respect to other potential contaminants that may be present or produced depending on the composition of the starting raw material.

“Delta-8 THC products should be kept out of the reach of children and pets."

The main short-term side effects of Delta-8 THC include: dry mouth, problems with coordination, dizziness, and nausea.

Delta-8 THC seems to be safer than Delta-9 THC as it doesn’t get the user as high as marijuana and it has a lower incidence of anxiety and paranoia in users. There however have not been many studies to analyze the safety of Delta-8.

Advocates claim that there aren’t any considerable health risks associated with Delta-8, but even advocates warn users to never use Delta-8 THC if they’re about to drive a vehicle or operate heavy machinery, as it is an intoxicant.

Advocates argue that SB144 is unnecessary and that criminalizing the product is going too far.

Chey Garrigan is the Executive Director of the Alabama Cannabis Industry Association.

Garrigan told 1819 News that hundreds of thousands of Alabamians are getting relief from pain and other conditions over the counter from Delta-8 THC and CBD and criminalizing many of these people will only make it more difficult for people to get natural treatments for their health conditions and will lead to more suffering.

“Senator Melson’s heavy-handed approach means that’s thousands of people getting the relief they need from this over-the-counter product, will be forced to suffer or get the relief they need through some legacy market product,” Garrigan said. “The passage of this bill will potentially be kicking the door down for recreational marijuana.”

Alabama legalized Delta-9 THC in medical marijuana last year. Melson was the sponsor of that bill. Licensed dispensaries will be selling Alabama-grown medical marijuana later this year.

SB144 has been assigned to the Senate Health Committee.

Wednesday will be Day eight of the 2022 Alabama Regular Legislative Session.

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email brandon.moseley@1819News.com.