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The legality of Delta-8 THC in Alabama

Listen: The legality of Delta-8 THC in Alabama

Alabama is in the process of legalizing medical marijuana, but proponents of cannabis say that’s not enough. The Alabama Democratic Party has announced its support behind the legalization of recreational pot. While all this goes on, Alabamians apparently don’t have to wait to light up with Delta-8.

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Alabama Green Farms is a veteran owned and operated hemp farm in the town of Dora, Alabama. It’s harvest time at the visit, and grower Rob Lowery snipped away at one of its plants. Nearby, 200 pounds of hemp was curing and drying in his greenhouse. The smell of the plants was pungent and sweet.

“The smell is a very like diesel kind of smell with fruity undertones, fruity pebble undertones and stuff like that,” Lowery said. “That's just the different charting profiles that are being expressed through the plant and stuff like that.”

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Some of the hemp curing and drying in Lowery’s green house will be turned into what called delta-8 products. That’s a cannabis compound that has become popular because of its similarity to Delta-9 THC. That’s the main compound in cannabis that gets you high.

“Beautiful thing about Delta-8. I like to call it marijuana light,” Lowery said. “It only happens to your CB1 receptor. So, it's all central nervous system. You get all of the effects of the high without any of the negative paranoias that you'll get the anxieties, the munchies, all that kind of stuff.”

Now, before anyone asks why Lowery isn’t in handcuffs, Delta-8 say is legal under state and federal law. The product is derived from hemp and has a very low level of THC, which is why it’s not against the law. Also, delta-8 isn’t just used for getting high. Lowery said it can help with the symptoms of disorders like PTSD.

“I'm a veteran. And to be honest with you. We're dropping like flies and I hate it,” Lowery said. “I was a medic in the military, so I have a sense of duty and responsibility to these guys. And if I can provide them with a plant, it's like my way of still being a medic.”

Lowery says he “grows for people.” And that’s why he started his hemp business.

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“That's the best way, something like a medicine that can actually help them with their PTSD their anxiety without having all the extra negative side effects from medications that are given to them all the time. So that's kind of the reason that we did this.”

Alabamians can smoke delta-8 in vapes—there are also tinctures, lotions, edible goods and much more. Some products are found in gas stations in the state and in shops like Freedom CBD and Wellness and Vapor Craft of Tuscaloosa.

Sonya Lowery runs the shop in Tuscaloosa. She says Delta-8 hit the market last summer and people use it for different reasons.

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“Delta eight really piques your creativity and kinda up uplifts you more,” Lowery said. “You know, it's been a really good product for people that have pain anxiety, depression, insomnia.”

Lowery says delta-8 products are really popular with her customers—especially the gummies.

“People are coming in saying, I've had the best sleep of my life on the gummies, you know, so we're hearing a lot of good feedback,” she said. “It's still a safe product because it's hemp derived, as long as you're using products that you know, have the third-party lab testing and you can see for yourself that the quality and the transparency is there.”

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Lowery says safety is important when it comes to Delta-8. She personally samples the products sold at Freedom CBD and Wellness, and she says she’s picky about what’s put on the shelves.

“I like to go with brands that put the QR code to the lab report. Some companies can fake lab reports and that's a big issue,” Lowery said. “But with that third party lab testing you have proof that it's a legal product, it's not over the Delta nine limit. Um Most reports are going to give you um microbial testing, residual solvents, pesticides. So you know what you're putting in your body is safe.”

Although delta-8 is legal in Alabama-- it’s not recommended if you’re going to be drug tested.

“It definitely will make you fail a drug test because it is an isomer of THC,” she said. “When it's metabolized through your body, it comes out looking just like DELTA nine. So a simple, your analysis cannot tell the difference between eight or nine.”

Right now, hemp-derived delta-8 THC is legal in Alabama under state and federal law. This means you can purchase, use, possess, sell, distribute, and produce delta-8 in Alabama without running afoul of the law. However, there’s already been an attempt to change that.

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“The Alabama Legislature last session tried to add an amendment onto another bill to ban Delta 8,” Lowery said. “So, they were coming for it then, but they just didn't have enough steam.”

The measure Lowery is talking about failed back in April after people in the hemp industry complained it would have adversely impacted them.

“A lot of help farmers and CBD people in Alabama. You know, we rode in and was like, this will kill the industry. We need this because CBD had slowed down,” she said. “So much delta eight saved the industry. I'm expecting to see a bill next session to try to ban it.”

Rob Lowery says he’s also concerned about the future of Delta-8.

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“I'm always worried about this industry because the industry is always kind of just shifting here and there every like different week, we're hearing different things,” he said. “And it also depends on the state level. So, some states, they do not like Delta-8 and they outlawed it, and some states are like, we're cool with it.”

APR reached out to Republican Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur. He was the original author of the amendment to criminalize Delta-8 in Alabama. A spokesperson for his office says he doesn’t have any current plans to introduce similar legislation in the upcoming session.

Baillee Majors is the Morning Edition host and a reporter at Alabama Public Radio.
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