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Wyoming will ban marijuana substitute delta-8; burgeoning industry’s future uncertain

Head shops around the state are scrambling to understand what this will mean and whether this will close their doors for good. Most of the law goes into effect in July.

Delta-8 is advertised at smoke shops and vape shops all around Wyoming. (Madelyn Beck/WyoFile)

by Madelyn Beck, WyoFile

Uncertainty surrounds Wyoming’s ban on delta-8 — a marijuana-like substance also called “diet weed” — which Gov. Mark Gordon signed into law March 7. 

Senate File 32 – Hemp-limitations on psychoactive substances aims to ban delta-8 and similar products in Wyoming, though its full effect is still unclear. Some speculate the law could even limit the availability of certain CBD products in Wyoming. 

There was no fanfare around the signing, just a notation on the governor’s list of signed legislation. The law is expected to lead to closures and layoffs at the hemp, smoke and vape shops that sprung up across the state in recent years, though many lawmakers expressed hope that it would make Wyoming safer.

Headshop owners reached by WyoFile said they’re working with lawyers to decide what to do next, including filing potential lawsuits or determining whether the ban effective July 1 will close their shops. 

The history

Congress legalized hemp via the 2018 Farm Bill, the language of which was copied in states around the country — including Wyoming. The law defined “legal hemp” as a cannabis plant or product with less than 0.3% delta-9 THC on a dry weight basis. 

That left a loophole for similarly structured derivatives like delta-8 THC and delta-10 THC, which occur naturally in very small amounts but produce weaker marijuana-like effects  — feeling high, relaxed, etc.

Delta-8 flower tends to have weaker effects than marijuana when smoked. (Madelyn Beck/WyoFile)

Since then, businesses around the country have been synthesizing these other forms of THC, concentrating them into an array of products ranging from gummies to smokeable flower. 

But when several students in Cody went to the emergency room after taking what they said was delta-8, alarm bells began to ring for Wyoming lawmakers. 

The product may be considered by some courts to be federally legal, but it is not federally regulated. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned that delta-8 and similar substances on store shelves could be created using harmful chemicals. 

Most recently, a federally funded study found that in 2023, around 11% of U.S. 12th graders reported using delta-8. There were higher rates of students reporting use in the south, midwest and states that haven’t legalized “adult-use” marijuana or didn’t have delta-8 regulations, researchers found.  

“Prioritizing surveillance, policy, and public health efforts addressing adolescent [delta-8] use may be warranted,” the authors concluded. 

Meanwhile, the study found that around 30% of 12th graders reported using marijuana over the last year, though “[m]arijuana use did not differ by cannabis policies, aligning with some previous research.”

In Wyoming, no one under 18 is allowed into head shops, but there have been reports of 18-year-olds getting delta-8 and selling to high school friends. 

“Prioritizing surveillance, policy, and public health efforts addressing adolescent [delta-8] use may be warranted.”

NEW STUDY PUBLISHED IN JAMA ON ADOLESCENT DELTA-8, MARIJUANA USE

This new ban on all types of THC was something Sam Watt said previously would put his five Platte Hemp stores in Wyoming out of business while encouraging customers to buy from sketchy online retailers. (A federal judge in Arkansas said states can’t block the federally legal product from traveling through.) 

Instead, Watt said he’d support a ban for those under 21 and would welcome regulations, including required third-party testing — a service his stores already use.

“We’re all about regulation,” he said. 

Other users of delta-8 pleaded with lawmakers not to ban the substance because some use it while going through cancer treatment, dealing with PTSD or while facing chronic illnesses.

Still, Rep. Ember Oakley (R-Riverton) noted last month that there’s very little research into delta-8 and whether it’s a healthy treatment for the range of illnesses it’s being used to combat.

At the same time, there’s been more research into who may benefit from medical marijuana — like those with chronic illnesses and cancer pain — but there are many side effects scientists want to explore further. 

Wyomingites said in a 2020 survey they overwhelmingly support access to medical marijuana, but it remains illegal in the state. That same survey found a majority of residents support legalization for adult recreational use. 

What’s next

WyoFile will continue to report on the outcomes of SF 32 as the law goes into effect. 

In the meantime, delta-8 and other forms of THC may become federally illegal via the latest Farm Bill. That legislation, which was supposed to be passed last year, has a new deadline of Sept. 30. 

There’s been broad speculation that the federal legislation could close the loophole that allowed delta-8 to thrive around the country, but that language remains uncertain. 


This article was originally published by WyoFile and is republished here with permission. WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.

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