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San Antonio dispensaries split on pulling delta-8 cannabis products

Texas's health department added delta-8 products to its controlled substance list this week, prompting some sellers to throw out gummies and tinctures.

SAN ANTONIO — Stash CBD's inventory was thinner Thursday after Owner Ruben Mendoza tossed his delta-8 cannabis products last weekend. 

"All of it had to get pulled," said Mendoza, adding delta-8 items accounted for about 30% of his sales.

The Texas Department of State Health Services last weekend added the compound to its list of controlled substances which includes heroine and LSD.

Texas offered no warning or time for Mendoza to prepare, he said. 

"It looks like we're going to have to push more CBD product and figure out how to fill gaps in my product line," he said. 

Delta-8 is a strain of THC, an intoxicating chemical found in cannabis plants. It is not as potent as delta-9 THC, which is the psychoactive ingredient most often associated with marijuana. 

While chemically similar, the two THC strains have a double bond on different carbons within their molecular chains. 

Texans had been buying the compound, often in the form of gummies, tinctures or raw flower, to deal with anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain. Some bought delta-8 simply to achieve a mild high. 

"It's going to relax you," Mendoza said, noting anecdotally that delta-8 THC is less likely than delta-9 THC to induce paranoia or anxiety. 

But delta-8's legal status has never been entirely clear. 

The 2018 Farm Bill removed industrial hemp and its products from the federally controlled substances list. The law defined legal hemp as a cannabis plant containing less than .3% delta-9 THC. 

Because the bill did not directly address delta-8, sellers like Mendoza believed it would be technically legal to distribute and possess the compound at any potency. 

The federal Drug Enforcement Agency made matters murkier when it announced synthetically derived THC would remain illegal. Delta-8 occurs naturally in small amounts in the hemp plant, but it is most often synthesized in labs. 

If not impossible, determining whether a delta-8 product is organic or synthetic would be tedious work for law enforcement agents and public health officials. Texas instead imposed an outright ban on the compound. 

The state health department contends the compound has never been legal to possess in Texas, but only put the rule in plain English this week. 

A person caught in Texas with delta-8 products can be imprisoned for two years and fined up to $10,000. 

But local law enforcement will have to decide how seriously to treat enforcement, since the ban is codified in health department policy instead of state law. 

Legislators had a chance to bar delta-8 possession earlier this year and could not agree to do so. Health department officials told lawmakers they already considered the compound illegal. 

A number of "cannibusiness" groups are already planning to sue the state to overturn the recently clarified rule. They contend the state health department does not have the authority to institute bans on substances. 

Last year, a judge ruled against the state in a similar case involving smokable Hemp. Those CBD products returned to shelves soon after the ruling. 

'We've been through this before," said Alex Abdul, who owns Mary Jane's CBD dispensary. He says he'll keep selling delta-8 until a judge makes a final ruling. 

"Right now, Delta 8 is at least 50 percent of our sales. We rely on this," he said. "It's almost as good as marijuana."

Customers have flocked to Abdul's stores, he says, hoping to stock up on delta-8 in case it becomes more difficult to find. 

"They're buying in bulk," he said. "We might run out of all our products in the next 10 days."