Texas Mulls a Delta-8 Ban That Smoke Shops Say Would Crush Business

Hang on to your delta-8 because Lone Star lawmakers are coming for it.
Hang on to your delta-8 because Lone Star lawmakers are coming for it. Jacob Vaughn
Mark Mavrikos set up shop in North Texas about three years ago with one main goal: selling CBD. He’s established himself in the area and now has two CBD American Shaman locations. One is in Richardson and the other is in Lake Highlands. Not long after that, he began hearing about Delta-8 THC.

Delta-9 THC is the psychoactive component in marijuana that gets users high. It’s basically illegal in Texas. Delta-8 is the compound’s less psychoactive, currently legal cousin. It can come in the form of hemp flower, vapes or edibles.

After doing a lot of vetting and hunting down quality product, Mavrikos introduced Delta-8 to his customers in February. “It’s been one of our top sellers for the past three months,” he said. “People come in to get CBD, but they’ll also get the Delta-8, and they’re using them in conjunction together. … So, you’re getting a little bit of benefit from both products.”

The Delta-8 market has been booming in Texas and several other states. But some state lawmakers essentially want to ban it, and they just got a step closer to pulling that off. Cannabis reform advocates say if they're successful, the move will hurt businesses and their customers.

The 2018 U.S. Farm Bill removed hemp that contains less than 0.3% of THC from the Schedule I controlled substance list. The following year, Gov. Gregg Abbott signed House Bill 1325, legalizing the cultivation, possession and sale of industrial hemp that contains less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC, the chief psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis plants.

The state hadn’t said anything about Delta-8, so growers have been producing the stuff like crazy, as well as other compounds, such as Delta-10 THC. It’s been flying off the shelves in Texas shops. But language recently introduced in two cannabis reform bills could put all the fun to an end.

If passed, House Bill 2593 would mark the first time state lawmakers reduced penalties associated with marijuana since the '70s. The bill would make possessing 2 ounces of THC concentrates a Class B misdemeanor instead of a felony. Before the bill passed the Senate Water, Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee, though, state Sen. Charles Perry added an amendment to calculate THC potency in legal hemp products by counting all forms of tetrahydrocannabinol.

HB 3948 would expand hemp research, which marijuana reform advocates say is good. But lawmakers in the Senate Water, Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee added an amendment that would also limit the total tetrahydrocannabinol content to just 0.3%. Currently, you can find delta-8 products with up to 20% or higher.

“Lots of Texans are going to lose their jobs." – Mark Mavrikos, CBD American Shaman

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The ban will lead to revenue loss for Mavrikos’ shops, but he said he’s more worried about his customers. “It’ll definitely hurt our business, but the thing that’s going to be the worst is our customers that are no longer going to be able to get it anymore,” he said.

“Most of our customers that are purchasing it are elderly people," he explained. "They’re getting it for pain management, to help with their overwhelming feelings with everything that’s going on in the world today and for sleep. Now, it’s going to go away, so I’m going to have to tell customers who have gotten used to this and are loving it ‘Hey, you know what? You can’t buy that anymore because now it’s illegal.’ That’s going to be the biggest thing.”

His shop primarily sells CBD. “That’s what we’re known for,” he said. His shop will get by, but he said it’s going to be detrimental to other businesses.

Some argue that the language will bring state law in alignment with federal laws pertaining to "synthetic cannabinoids." The 2018 Farm Bill made it so all hemp-derived cannabinoids are defined as hemp, which is a legal crop and no longer a controlled substance. However, since Delta-8 and Delta-10 are manufactured from hemp-derived CBD, not directly from the plant, some argue the two compounds are "synthetic."

Last year, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration declared all "synthetically derived THC" would remain on the Schedule I controlled substances list. Some say that includes Delta-8 and Delta-10, which makes them illegal. Additionally, the new language in HB 3948 would put the Department of Health and Human Services in charge of determining what is considered synthetically derived.

Jesse Williams, a cannabis reform advocate, said some are trying to get this language taken out of the bills before they make it out of the House.

However, Williams said Abbott could veto the bills if they don’t include bans of hemp-derived compounds like Delta-8 or Delta-10. If HB 2593 ia vetoed, it’s a disaster for cannabis reform overall, he said. If HB 3948 gets vetoed, he said it’ll be devastating to cannabis reform and farmers across the state. Additionally, some suspect the state will eventually crack down on these compounds, anyway. So, advocates are thinking hard about which fight they want to pick next.

“We’re kind of sitting on our hands waiting to see what’s going to happen,” CBD American Shaman’s Mavrikos said.

In the meantime, he’s going to sell as much Delta-8 as he can. “That’s the goal,” Mavrikos said. “We want to make sure our customers can get what they can while they can just because it has been so beneficial to so many.”

If the ban goes through, Texas will just be the latest on a growing list of states looking to restrict access to Delta-8 and other cannabinoids.

While the language could cut Delta-8 quantity in products to minuscule amounts, Mavrikos said it will still be beneficial to some. But he’s still worried about what it will do to jobs in the state.

“Lots of Texans are going to lose their jobs,” he said. “There’s many hemp growers now here in Texas. They started growing Delta-8, which grew their business substantially and they could have 100 employees. What’s going to happen to them? What’s going to happen to all the small stores that have been struggling because of COVID and finally they’re starting to pull themselves out and they’re taking something away that’s making them money.”
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Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn