Bill to Ban Delta-8 Products Heads to DeSantis’ Desk

April 9, 2024 Criminal Defense, Drug Charges, News & Announcements

Another piece of proposed legislation sent to the Governor’s office could change the framework of Florida’s current hemp industry. If it passes, SB 1698 will prevent stores from manufacturing and selling products containing delta-8 THC, along with limiting products that are derived from hemp.

This page aims to provide information on the substance delta-8 THC, the legal changes that will be made if SB 1698 is signed into law, and responses to the bill.

What is Delta-8?

Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol, or delta-8 THC, is a substance that comes from the Cannabis sativa plant. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) explains that there are more than 100 cannabinoids that are naturally produced by the cannabis plant, including delta-8. Typically, delta-8 is manufactured from hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD). Delta-8 has not been approved by the FDA, mainly due to its psychoactive effects.

According to the FDA’s site, there were 2,362 exposure cases reported to the National poison control center between January 1, 2021, and February 28, 2022, due to delta-8 THC products. The following data was found from the exposure cases:

  • 58% of the reported cases involved adults, 41% involved pediatric patients less than 18;
  • 40% of the reported cases were from unintentional exposure to delta-8 THC and 82% of the unintentional exposure affected pediatric patients;
  • 70% of the reported cases required health care facility evaluation, of which 8% resulted in admission to a critical care unit;
  • 45% of patients who required health care evaluation were pediatric patients; and
  • One pediatric case was coded with a medical outcome of death.

The FDA also warns of the potentially harmful chemicals that are often present in products containing delta-8 THC. Manufacturers can use unsafe chemicals or attempt to manufacture the products in unsanitary settings, which can lead to harmful substances in the final product.

Additionally, delta-8 THC products are often offered at retailers or online in labeling and packaging that may appeal to children, such as in the form of chocolates, candies, cookies, and gummies. For these combined reasons, the FDA has chosen to notify the public about the specific substance.

Hemp vs Marijuana

While marijuana and hemp are similar in appearance and smell, the main difference lies within the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) within it. Hemp is considered any part of the cannabis plant that has a total THC concentration not exceeding 0.3 percent. Marijuana has a THC level over 0.3%, which is why it is considered a controlled substance and is illegal. Currently, the only way to legally obtain marijuana in Florida is through a medical marijuana card.

Find out more about the differences between hemp and marijuana here. To read about the different ways law enforcement tests for each substance, review our page here

SB 1698

SB 1698 titled “Food and Hemp Products” recently passed through the Florida Legislature to regulate hemp-derived products and ban products containing the delta-8 variant of THC.

Under the proposed bill, the amended definition of “hemp” states that the level of THC cannot exceed 5 milligrams per serving and 50 milligrams per container on a wet-weight basis. Initially the bill’s sponsor pushed for even stricter limits—2 milligrams per serving and 10 milligrams per package—but was amended after receiving input from the hemp industry.

Previously, Florida’s hemp laws did not prohibit the type of extract that was used from a cannabis plant to make hemp products in the form of vapes or gummies. Stores with certain permit requirements were also legally allowed to sell Delta-8, Delta-9, and Delta-10 in different product forms if it was in accordance with the regulation for testing, packaging, and labeling the items.

Under SB 1698, “hemp extract” is redefined to prohibit any controlled substance under Florida Statute Section 893.03, any quantity of synthetic cannabinoids, delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, delta-10-tetrahydrocannabinol, hexahydrocannabinol, tetrahydrocannabinol acetate, tetrahydrocannabiphorol, and tetrahydrocannabivarin.

Businesses will also be prohibited from selling any hemp products that are considered attractive to children. The definition of an item being “attractive to children” is amended to include any manufacturing of products that include or display humans, cartoons, animals, toys, or other features that would target children.

While SB 1698 does not address any criminal penalties for a violation, it does state that “hemp extract possessed, manufactured, delivered, held, offered for sale, distributed, or sold in violation of this subsection by an entity regulated under chapter 500 is subject to s. 500.172 and penalties as provided in s. 500.121.” Any hemp extract products that are either mislabeled are considered attractive for children will be subjected to an “immediate stop-sale order.”

Responses to Banned Products

During the 2024 Legislative Session, Florida lawmakers heard both sides of the argument regarding the proposed SB 1698. When bill sponsor Tommy Gregory was pressed about the “thousands of emails” from citizens claiming that they’ll have no choice but to go to drug dealers for their pain relief, he dismissed the concerns.

“That statement answers the question for you what these products are,” Gregory said. “They’re drugs. They’re recreational drugs. And yes, if we say if you can’t buy them, and you’re a drug user, then sure, maybe you’ll go to a drug dealer. Maybe you’ll do the right thing and stop using drugs.”

One of the cases lawmakers heard about back in January was from Tallahassee local Kassie Stuart, who had been diagnosed with idiopathic genetic epilepsy at age 17. Stuart claimed nothing helped her or the intense seizures she experienced, until she began using delta-8 THC four years ago.

“I had my medical [marijuana] card for a little bit,” Stuart said in the January legislative meeting. “It was helping, but it wasn’t giving me the medical relief that I needed when I was introduced to delta-8, and it really helped me. I feel like if I’m ‘spazzy’ or ‘seizy’ or if I have a really bad headache, I can just hit my [vape] pen a couple of times or eat some edibles, and it goes away in a couple of minutes.” Stuart explained that with delta-8 products, she went from suffering through multiple seizures a day to only one or two within a year.

Other representatives claimed that it was important to regulate hemp-derived products, not necessarily to ban them.

“You could get sushi at a gas station, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it,” said Rep. Joel Rudman.

Other representatives asserted that the Legislature should listen to the pleas from the public regarding the loss of medical benefits through the potential ban. Rep. Hillary Cassel highlighted the who the bill is affecting: “It was the people. It was the mothers. It was the people living with chronic illness. Cancer. Lupus. And the list goes on and on talking about how these products changed their lives.”

The following is a statement from multi-hemp company owner JJ Coombs following the Legislature’s approval of SB 1698:

“Today the Florida Legislature ignored the widespread opposition from the Florida hemp industry, consumers, and residents, and instead vote to ban safe, lawful products that many individuals seek to improve their quality of life. Passing a bill like this could force consumers to purchase products from the unregulated market. The Florida Legislature is well on its way to eliminating several beneficial hemp and CBD products, ending Florida’s hemp industry as we know it.”

If the Governor signs SB 1698 into law, it will go into effect October 1, 2024.

Accused of Unlawful Possession? Contact a Tallahassee Drug Defense Attorney

With the continuous changes to Florida’s laws on marijuana and hemp, it may be confusing to know what can or can’t get you arrested. If you find yourself facing a possession charge for a controlled substance, you can rely on top-quality defense from the Tallahassee, FL drug charge attorneys with Pumphrey Law Firm. We can provide you with a free consultation to go over the case details and determine a plan of defense.

Contact our office today by calling (850) 681-7777 or fill out our online form.

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