It’s 2022, but the 2018 Farm Bill is still shaking things up in the U.S. cannabis market. In the years since the bill came into effect, products rich in hemp-derived CBD, delta-8 THC, delta-10 THC, and other emerging cannabinoids have become available to the masses thanks to enterprising individuals and companies in the booming hemp sector.
Recently, some brands in the hemp space have been leaning into the flexibility the Farm Bill provides to the fullest extent, creating products that offer as close to a traditional THC experience as possible for a national audience.
Are delta-9 THC products legal?
The short answer: yes, some products containing delta-9 THC are legal! However, it’s a little more complicated than that. The status of these products comes down to individual THC ratios and the plant source of that THC.
When the 2014 Farm Bill passed, it allowed for very limited cultivation of industrial hemp for research programs. This was dramatically expanded by the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, aka the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized at the federal level the cultivation of hemp. Thanks to this, anyone with the land, means, and know-how could start a hemp cultivation operation. The legislation also stipulated that the hemp produced, and resulting products made from the hemp, must contain less than 0.3% delta-9 THC per dry weight, differentiating industrial hemp (often used to make rope and similar textiles) from cannabis plants cultivated specifically with the goal of THC delivery.
Of course hemp, like its more potent cousins, is a member of the cannabis plant family, and as such contains a spectrum of cannabinoids (the active chemical compounds found in cannabis plants), which researchers and cultivators began to more freely study, process, and market as a result of the new flexibility the Farm Bill allowed.
Because of this, hemp-based CBD products of all descriptions quickly began to fill the market, and soon to follow were products with delta-8 and delta-10 THC—cannabinoids found in trace amounts in hemp and cannabis plants that can be synthesized from CBD isolate to create products where the unique effects of these rare cannabinoids can be felt. With the ratio restriction that federally legal hemp products contain no more than 0.3% delta-9 THC per dry weight, many producers currently opt to remove delta-9 THC entirely from their extracts, or downplay its role to a smaller supporting part of full-spectrum products.
Delta-9 THC is the cannabinoid that most cannabis consumers know and love, responsible for the euphoric high that comes with smoking flower or consuming other typical THC products in recreational or medical legal states like vape cartridges and edibles. While fully legal in some states, it has yet to be legalized without restriction at the federal level.
However, some hemp producers, like The Hemp Doctor, have been able to use the 0.3% delta-9 THC restriction to their advantage. As long as they can ensure that their hemp products meet this ratio requirement, they are able to offer products containing noticeable amounts of delta-9 THC to a national audience.
Cannabinoids and the entourage effect
Many hemp products feature isolated forms of cannabinoids like CBD, delta-8, delta-10, and others, synthesized in laboratories, that offer the limited effects of the single cannabinoid in question. But the isolate method doesn’t work for hemp-based delta-9 THC, as the resulting product would obviously violate the ratio restriction of having no more than 0.3% delta-9 THC.
Full-spectrum hemp products are made using the whole hemp plant, which results in products that feature a variety of members of the wonderful cannabinoid family. This more closely mirrors what mother nature intended—if you were to smoke whole flower, you would be experiencing the combined effects of all those cannabinoids working together. Full-spectrum hemp extracts give you that combined effect, too.
This phenomenon is called the entourage effect. Unlike products with cannabinoid isolates, full-spectrum products feature an entourage of cannabinoids, delivering more natural cannabinoid effects through blends including balanced levels of CBD, THC of all varieties, CBG, CBN, and CBC.
The full-spectrum production method also allows producers to develop products that feature delta-9 THC within the federal legal limit—adjusting the ratio of delta-9 THC to other cannabinoids and the dry weight of the resulting product to get the proportions just right—thus allowing for its legal sale nationwide, even if your state of residence has laws prohibiting the sale of cannabis-derived THC products.