Wyoming Lawmakers Want To Crack Down On ‘Marijuana Lite’

Through a loophole in state law, Wyoming officials say some people void prosecution for “marijuana lite,” a less potent version of traditional pot.

Leo Wolfson

September 19, 20234 min read

A variety of delta-8 THC products at Black Market Vape & Smoke in Cheyenne.
A variety of delta-8 THC products at Black Market Vape & Smoke in Cheyenne. (Greg Johnson, Cowboy State Daily)

The Wyoming Legislature is considering cracking down on a type of marijuana that has been evading investigators because of a loophole in state laws.

During Tuesday’s Joint Judiciary Committee meeting, legislators considered two draft bills addressing delta-8 THC, often referred to as “marijuana lite.”

Delta-8, unlike the more potent delta-9 THC that is most commonly associated with marijuana, does not have as much of an intoxicating effect on the brain. Because of this, delta-8 products are unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and are synthetic derivatives from hemp, which is not allowed to contain more than 0.3% delta-9 THC. 

The FDA says delta-8 is a potentially dangerous drug that has been linked to thousands of accidental poisonings. It has received 104 reports of adverse events in patients who consumed delta-8 THC products between 2020 and 2022. 

A few marijuana advocates spoke before the committee on Tuesday and said that if Wyoming made medicinal or recreational marijuana legal, it would completely remove the market for illegal delta-8.

The Loophole

Sarah Barrett, forensic scientist for the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigations, told the committee that some have argued that even though delta-8 containing more than 0.3% THC is considered a banned Schedule I substance in Wyoming, it is derived from hemp, which is legal to grow here. 

There is a process that can happen chemically that modifies delta-8 THC into a synthetic product, but DCI has no test at its disposal to prove that this process has been used. 

“Welcome to humanity. We’re looking for a loophole and we exploit it, that’s the reality of mankind,” said Rep. Jeremy Haroldson, R-Wheatland.

Although the synthetic version of delta-8 has been found with THC levels as high as 20%, Barrett said without a scientific test it is very difficult to prove that a chemical alteration has occurred.

“I can’t testify to that when I go to court,” she said.

Delta-8 THC occurs naturally in hemp and any cannabis plant in trace amounts. Barrett said various tests her department has performed found that it comes in amounts no more than 0.01% THC. It typically takes a THC level of at least around 5% to experience any psychoactive effects.

A 2022 National Library of Medicine survey of delta-8 found that users of the substance reported feeling less paranoid, less anxious and having a “nicer” high compared with delta-9-THC. The most common experiences from those using delta-8 were relaxation, euphoria and pain relief. 

During the 2023 legislative session, high schoolers from Cody lobbied lawmakers to make delta-8 illegal for those under 21-years old in Wyoming, mentioning how six of their classmates were sent to the emergency room after ingesting the substance. The House Education Committee ended up tabling a bill that would have made delta-8 and delta-9 illegal in Wyoming.

Concern And Confusion

There was some concern from hemp industry representatives that an originally drafted version considered Tuesday would kill all industrial hemp production in Wyoming. The committee clarified during the meeting that was not intended.

“I want to be on the record of saying how important that industry can be to Wyoming as we’re moving away from the cash crops that we’ve had in the past such as sugar beets,” said Sen. Ed Cooper, R-Thermopolis.

At Black Market Vape & Smoke in Cheyenne, Assistant Manager Drake Johnson said the business is aware of the proposed law change and “does not at all” support outlawing delta-8.

He said the low-level THC products are popular.

“It’s pretty popular, but not as much in Cheyenne as in other parts of Wyoming because of Cheyenne’s access to Colorado” where recreational marijuana use is legal, he said.

Johnson said his store’s house brand of delta-8 THC was developed by an Iraq War veteran who was looking for ways to ease his and other veterans’ pain.

Members of the committee also clarified that there was no intention to make CBD illegal in Wyoming, although an earlier version of one of the bills would have done this. CBD is an active ingredient in cannabis and derived from the hemp plant. It creates no psychoactive effects and is generally taken as a relaxant. Its use has become prevalent across Wyoming. 

The committee will discuss the delta-8 issue more at its next meeting in November.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at leo@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter