ATLANTA — It’s a new way to get high and hurt, according to some doctors. It’s called Delta 8, and it’s totally legal.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Sophia Choi learned there is now a push to close the loophole that allows it.
Delta 8 is sold in gas stations and vape shops. It’s a form of hemp that many users say helps them physically and mentally.
But some Georgia lawmakers are pushing a bill to regulate Delta 8 after people started getting sick from it -- including children.
“I think this is so good,” said Rowan Dyer talking about the Delta 8 products she bought at Great Vape in Gwinnett County.
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Dyer said she started using it after a car accident to avoid becoming addicted to painkillers like opioids.
“My back’s messed up and everything. And this helps a whole lot more than anything else. And I’ve tried like a lot of stuff,” said Dyer.
Right now, Delta 8 is legal because of a loophole in the federal farm bill that allows the sale of hemp and cannabis with less than .3 % THC.
Georgia passed its own version of the law with the 2019 Hemp Farming Act.
Delta 8 is isolated from hemp, therefore it’s OK for retailers like Michael Peterson, owner of Great Vape, to sell.
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“It helps people out there that don’t want to go to the doctor and get pharmaceutical drugs,” Peterson said.
But unlike pharmaceuticals, Delta 8 isn’t regulated.
“It’s like playing medicine roulette. You just don’t know what you’re going to get,” said Dr. Gaylord Lopez, executive director of the Georgia Poison Center.
He said the center is seeing increasing calls about Delta 8 – a total of 208 in 2022 alone.
Lopez said children are getting sick from a parent inadvertently leaving it out.
The FDA issued a warning in May 2022 noting the death of a child among the more than 2,300 calls to poison control centers about Delta 8.
Delta 8 comes in various forms including gummies, cookies, and chocolate.
Critics said they’re made to look like sweets to tempt kids and teens.
“It’s not unusual for kids to polish off entire bags of this stuff because they’re used to candy,” Lopez said.
Adults also are calling for help with varying symptoms including vomiting, dizziness, and drowsiness.
“I said he’s out of his mind,” one mother told our sister station in Orlando, WFTV.
The mother, who did not identify herself, said her adult son ended up in the hospital for psychosis after vaping Delta 8 for about a year.
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“Every 10 seconds literally he would say did I die?” she said.
“These are not regulated. There’s no proper dosing really on these products. And when you play doctor yourself, you can run into problems,” Lopez said.
Tom Church said the Delta 8 industry welcomes regulation. He is an attorney who successfully represented Delta 8 distributors and retailers in court after they started getting raided because police could not tell the difference between pot which is illegal and Delta 8 which is not.
“These are business owners. These aren’t drug dealers. They want to do things right and they want to comply with the law,” Church said.
Georgia law on Delta 8 could soon change.
State Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick filed a bill that would treat all THC products the same, including an age limit.
“The bottom line is testing, labeling, and putting an age restriction in place,” Kirkpatrick said.
Ron Thornton works at Great Vape and takes Delta 8 for anxiety.
“It’s not so much the fogginess that you get from actually smoking marijuana. It’s more of a body sensation. It’s not as potent and it doesn’t last as long,” Thornton said.
He said Delta 8 is gaining popularity.
Sales of Delta 8 reached $2 billion in the past two years, according to Forbes.
Dyer said she will keep buying it as long as she can.
“I can function and do everything that I would normally do without it. Whereas like, if I was on like any of the prescribed medication I would be like tired, lethargic,” she said.
Currently, 22 states either ban or restrict Delta 8.
The FDA gave up regulating it asking Congress to do it instead.
The federal farm bill is up for renewal this year and could lead to new regulations or a ban on Delta 8.
The Georgia bill is working its way through the State Senate. Channel 2 Action News will keep you updated.
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