Nano Delta 9 gummies
Nano Delta 9 gummies available at CBD American Shaman Menomonee Falls on Friday, April 10, 2024, in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. Photo by Jovanny Hernandez for Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Sales of delta-8 and other hemp products are booming. Here’s what to know.

Marijuana for recreational use remains outlawed in half of the U.S. — yet it is easy to buy gummies, vapes and other products that deliver a high in many of those same states.

April 18, 2024

The Examination is reporting on the new breed of hemp-derived cannabis products as part of Highly Legal, a collaboration with, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, PennLive and USA TODAY. Read our joint investigation and share your experience or questions with us.

Is delta-8 real weed? 

Delta-8 is extracted from hemp, a cannabis plant that contains low levels of delta-9 THC, the psychoactive compound associated with marijuana. In recent years, manufacturers have found ways to chemically extract it, and similar compounds, adding them to gummies, vapes and more. 

Is delta-8 legal? And how? 

Through the 2018 farm bill, Congress legalized hemp, a variety of cannabis plant with low levels of THC. Chemical processing yields a concentrated, and potent THC extract. Products made with that extract are also supposed to contain the same low levels of THC, but that isn’t always the case. Though marketed as “farm bill compliant,” the products remain in a legal gray area. Regulators and state law enforcement officials have called on Congress to clarify the law.

Can delta-8 make you high? 

It depends on the dosage, and sometimes the person. The compound acts much like traditional marijuana: Low-dosage products may deliver a mild buzz, or none at all. High-dosage products, or low-dosage products taken in greater quantities, can deliver a powerful high. 

How safe is delta-8? 

Put simply: we don’t know. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not test hemp products, and the agency says it has ”limited tools for managing many of the risks” associated with these products. Due to inconsistent production, and packaging often containing little or misleading information, it can be easy to unwittingly take too much. Regulators and health experts have also flashed warnings about the ways some delta-8 products are processed. 

How old do I need to be to buy delta-8? 

There is no federal minimum age for buying or using delta-8, though some states tightly regulate sales or ban them altogether. States like Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, Wyoming, and Minnesota restrict the sale to people 21 and older. Some other states, including Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, have no age limit.

What are the possible benefits and harms of delta-8?

An online survey of delta-8 consumers found that most reported feelings of relaxation, euphoria and pain relief. They also said delta-8 was less likely to cause paranoia than marijuana. But the experience can depend on the person, the dosage — or both. As sales have soared to almost $3 billion annually, so have reports of bad reactions, ranging from an unpleasant evening to hospital visits and even cannabinoid-induced psychosis. Poison control centers have also received thousands of calls concerning consumption by teens and children.

Will delta-8 test positive on a drug test?

Delta-8 is very similar chemically to the delta-9 in marijuana. Even though it has a weaker bond to brain receptors, the body still processes it in the same way as marijuana. That means byproducts of delta-8 often show up as marijuana on urine drug screens.

Can I take delta-8 while pregnant or breastfeeding? 

The FDA says people should avoid CBD (cannabidiol), marijuana and other cannabis products while pregnant or breastfeeding. Heavy use is associated with low birthweight. 

What should I do if my child consumes delta-8 THC?  

Call 911 if a child has consumed a delta-8 product and is unable to respond, having difficulty breathing, or having a seizure, America’s Poison Centers says. If a child has consumed a delta-8 product and is not having the life-threatening symptoms described above, a caretaker should call Poison Help (1-800-222-1222). Often, children experiencing symptoms related to consumption of a delta-8 product will need monitoring or treatment at a healthcare facility.

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Can I die from delta-8? 

A handful of deaths have been potentially linked to delta-8. According to a study published last January, the FDA collected reports of 22 deaths between 2018 and 2021 where delta-8 was present. It was the only substance found in four of the people who died. 

You mentioned delta-9 … I’m seeing these products, too. How?

It’s confusing. Delta-9, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, is also present in low levels in hemp, and can also be extracted and synthesized. By applying the logic of the farm bill, retailers are now flooding physical stores and online sites with delta-9 thc products they say are farm bill compliant. But research has shown that some of these products can contain even more THC than would be allowed in legal marijuana states.

What are delta-10, HHC, THC-JD? 

Since delta-8 became legal, a number of new compounds are available for sale. These include delta-10, delta-0, HHC, THC-JD and more. Some are more psychoactive than delta-8, health agencies have said.

Are regulators taking any action? 

The FDA has issued warning letters to some producers, but has said its authority to oversee the hemp market is limited and a new regulatory regime is needed." The Drug Enforcement Administration is reviewing if the hemp products should be classified as a prohibited controlled substance. Several states have moved to limit the age or ban the sale of delta-8.

The Examination

Ashley Okwuosa

Ashley Okwuosa is a reporter at The Examination.

Amy Yurkanin

Amy Yurkanin is a senior reporter at covering health care and women’s issues.

John Diedrich

John Diedrich is an investigative reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.