Why Are Delta-9 THC Gummies Legal in The US?

Nationwide cannabis legalization looks to be well underway in the US, save for a few holdout states. If recent momentum in political trends are any indication, fundamental changes in American federal cannabis laws are just around the corner. However, there is some confusion on the legal status of some cannabis compounds for the moment — at least among consumers residing in states still under prohibition.

A crash course on THC's legal status under federal law

Since the early days of cannabis prohibition, the federal government has taken a hard stance against the use of marijuana and its natural compounds. In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act was passed, which classified THC as a "Schedule I" drug. This classification is given to substances that have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.

For decades, the federal government has maintained this classification, despite a growing body of scientific literature assessing and establishing the medicinal and therapeutic potential of cannabis compounds.

In recent years, many states have passed their own laws legalizing the use of cannabis compounds like THC for medicinal purposes. However, because of federal law, patients in these states are still at risk of being arrested and prosecuted by the government. There's been a growing movement to change federal law around cannabis compounds, but so far limited progress has been made.

Until cannabis law is changed on a federal level, even patients in states with medical marijuana laws can still be at risk of being arrested and prosecuted by the federal government for various technicalities, including medication outside of their local state.

The federal government's current stance on THC is clear: it's a controlled substance with no accepted medical use. However, cannabis advocates argue that this classification isn't based on scientific evidence, and that it's time for the law to change. Only time will tell if the federal government will eventually catch up with the majority of American states and change its stance on marijuana.

Given the contentious legal landscape around THC today, many new and unseasoned cannabis consumers are unsure about the legality of D9 gummies, even as they see them on store shelves at brick-and-mortar shops. In this post, we go over everything you need to know: from existing allowances on THC to why delta-9 gummies are technically legal and available nationwide.

Provisions Around THC in The 2018 Farm Bill

The Congressional Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 — known more commonly as the "Farm Bill" — was a transformative piece of legislation in that it fundamentally changed how the federal government regulated aspects of cannabis cultivation, specifically non-psychoactive varieties like hemp. This gave rise to the industrialization of hemp farming, which has in turn led to the rise of the CBD and hemp-derived alternative materials markets, each of which have grown into multi-billion dollar industries today.

The Farm Bill also had palpable implications on federal laws and regulations around THC, whether it be in states that have legalized recreational marijuana, or ones that only allow its use for medical purposes. Among the most significant of these changes was the provision that cannabis-derived products, be they full-spectrum tinctures or gummies, could contain THC as long as the total concentration of the cannabinoid amounted to no more than 0.3 percent. This has proven to be a game changer not just for delta-9 THC, but its delta-8 counterpart as well.

Delta-9 vs. Delta-8 THC

Delta-8 THC is a similar cannabinoid to delta-9 THC, the primary active component in marijuana. Delta-8 occurs naturally in very small quantities within the cannabis plant. It's mass produced via a refinement process utilizing a solvent and an acid to essentially "convert" CBD to D8. Delta-8 THC is less potent than delta-9, and has been shown to produce milder psychoactive effects that enhance focus and alertness.

On the other hand, delta-9 THC can be found in ample amounts in varieties of cannabis like marijuana. Delta-9 THC binds to the CB1 receptors in the brain, producing the "typical" psychoactive effects associated with marijuana use (e.g. languor, relaxation). Delta-9 THC is among the most studied cannabinoids today, and is credited with the majority of cannabis' therapeutic benefits.

Because delta-8 is arguably a synthetic cannabinoid, federal laws around its production, usage and sale are hazy compared to the framework in place around delta-9 THC.

Why (and How) Delta-9 THC Gummies Are Legal

Delta-9 THC gummies are readily available at dispensaries and cannabis shops in states where recreational consumption is legal, but they are also legal to ship in other states. While this might be confusing to some consumers, there's actually a fairly straightforward explanation as to why.

Under existing federal law, hemp-derived products — whether they're marketed as CBD products or not — are completely legal in all 50 states providing they contain no more than 0.3 percent THC by dry weight. Strictly speaking, there are currently no laws or regulations against gummies produced with serving sizes large enough that their THC content can accumulate into an appreciable number of milligrams. This has led to more imaginative cannabis companies producing fully active D9 products (including gummies) that are potent enough to actually produce many of the established effects associated with the cannabinoid.

Cannabis greenhorns and experienced devotees alike are free to enjoy delta-9 THC gummies anywhere in America for the foreseeable future, at least until a new round of regulations on cannabis products is put in place by regulatory agencies like the FDA.

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Mark Bernberg
Mark Bernberg

Mark Bernberg is a long-time cannabis investing enthusiast and founder of The Green Fund, Asia Pacific's preeminent media house, positioned at the forefront of the global cannabis industry.