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Despite legality challenges, delta-8 THC usage climbs


Delta-8 may be the target of many regulators and lawmakers, but it’s as popular as ever – particularly among teens.

A recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that roughly 11% of high school seniors in the U.S. reported using delta-8-THC in the past year.

The analysis is based on data from the 2023 Monitoring the Future survey and marks the first time research has tried to quantify the prevalence of delta-8-THC use among adolescents.

The hemp-derived compound, which induces effects akin to the more widely recognized delta-9-THC – the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana – has seen a surge in popularity in recent years.

“11% is a lot of people – that’s at least one or two students in every average-sized high school class who may be using delta-8,” Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is part of the NIH, said in a statement.

“We don’t know enough about these drugs, but we see that they are already extremely accessible to teens.”

Delta-8 products are often sold online or in places like gas stations and smoke shops without age restrictions.

A vast majority – 91% – of the teens who said they’ve used delta-8 also reported using marijuana, according to the findings. But that overlap isn’t telling the whole story, as the use of delta-8 was more common in the South and Midwest areas with states that still lack regulated marijuana access and where there are no specific rules about delta-8.

The study emphasized the need for more research into the effects of delta-8 specifically, as well as better education for young people and parents about the risks associated with cannabis products.

Delta-8 hate

The situation with delta-8 THC in the U.S. is quite mixed and a bit confusing.

While marijuana has been moving toward expanded legality in states, delta-8 THC is facing bans or heavy restrictions in many of those same places. At least 24 states already have heavy restrictions on delta-8 products, with 17 outright bans, according to October 2023 coverage from Green Market Report.

In addition, since then, more states have targeted the hemp-derived product, including New York, Virginia, and most recently, Florida. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine in January asked for a ban on “intoxicating hemp” goods, including all delta-8 products, as part of their work on amending the ballot measure that legalized recreational cannabis in the state last year.

However, not every state is moving to ban delta-8. Some states, such as Illinois and New Jersey, allow both delta-8 hemp products and marijuana. And states that have been less enthusiastic about legalizing marijuana, such as Texas and Alabama, have not imposed such restrictions on delta-8 products.

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