Delta-8 gummies, flower, pre-rolls and vape pen are set out on a counter
Delta-8 products have become a top seller in smoke shops across Wyoming. (Madelyn Beck/WyoFile)

Wyoming has long had an adversarial relationship with smokable or edible intoxicants, and that may continue with delta-8 — colloquially known as “weed light” and “diet weed.”

Members of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee will consider a draft bill Tuesday in Casper that would effectively ban that substance and any other with “similar chemical structure and pharmacological activity.”

The discussion comes at a time when stores selling the substance are proliferating in Wyoming, national leaders are debating its federal legality and concerns mount about a lack of regulation and possible harm to kids. 

Delta-8 is chemically similar to the psychoactive component of marijuana — delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — but can be made from hemp and tends to produce more mild effects because of its structure. However, without much regulation, delta-8 products on the shelf may not always match substances researched in the lab

There are even versions of delta-9 that have been considered legal if kept below a federal and state threshold of 0.3% per volume. 

These substances have eluded Wyoming’s pot prohibition thanks to a perceived loophole in the 2018 Farm Bill, which made hemp products federally legal as long as their delta-9 THC levels are lower than 0.3% on a “dry weight basis.”

Language from that bill ended up in state laws across the country, including Wyoming’s. 

Product manufacturers saw that language as an open door for a range of hemp-derived substances, including everything from vape pens and smokeables to gummies.

The underside of a jar filled with delta-8 flower
Delta-8 flower looks very similar to that of marijuana, but tends to have weaker effects. (Madelyn Beck/WyoFile)

Delta-8 in Wyoming

For Sam Watt in Casper, delta-8 is a mainstay at the five Platte Hemp Company stores he co-runs with his wife around the state. 

“I think we made our first [delta-8] purchase in the summer of 2019,” he said. “And then we went heavy into it … really heavy, pretty much when COVID hit. So that’s pretty much what saved our company because we were so new.”

It’s a fast-growing market, he said, estimating that about a dozen new shops started offering delta-8 products in Casper alone over the last year. 

If delta-8 is outlawed, he said his stores won’t make it, which would affect Platte Hemp’s 39 employees, the contractors he works with, hemp farmers and local coffers.

“It would close the doors,” he said. “I do business with electricians, my sign company, my insurance company … And the most important one I’d say is the state wouldn’t be getting any sales tax revenue that I’ve generated. And we’re averaging close to $30,000 a month.”

Beyond that, Watt said, delta-8 is a naturally-occuring substance in hemp, which could be an added hurdle for farmers who may have to strip it out. 

Finances aside, Watt said there’s a hunger for cannabis products in his community, including from those who use it to sleep or treat illnesses. For him, Watt said the substance improves his mental health.  

“I have severe depression with PTSD,” he said. “I’ve served in the Air Force, multiple deployments … When my PTSD kicks in, it’s pretty bad. I can go literally into the 30s, maybe possibly 35 hours straight of staying awake.” 

While he was initially prescribed several drugs including narcotics to treat his symptoms, Watt said, delta-8 is now all he takes.

PTSD is one of the conditions for which states like Colorado prescribe medical marijuana. Early research has shown the delta-9-THC in marijuana can alleviate PTSD symptoms for many patients in the short term, but there are calls for more research to be done, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs does not recommend its use in PTSD treatment because of long-term concerns.

Of his delta-8 clientele, Watt estimates the average customer is between 47 and 61 years old. Only those 18 and older are able to buy the substance in Wyoming smoke shops, he said, and those under 21 are in the extreme minority at his businesses.

Those older users aren’t who lawmakers have voiced concerns about, though.

“In my community, we’ve had several students go to the ER as a result of the loophole in the law and this product being available on the shelves in my community,” Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams (R-Cody) said at an April Judiciary Committee meeting in Sheridan, arguing for a swift removal of delta-8 from shops. Rodriguez-Williams is on the committee.

In January, Cody High School officials spoke up about five of their students being sent to the ER after taking delta-8, as reported by the Cody Enterprise. The teens had low vitals, were incoherent and one reportedly couldn’t breathe. Some Cody students went on to lobby for a bill that would have barred anyone under 21 from buying cannabidiol products like delta-8, but the legislation died in committee before receiving a vote. 

There has been a rise in unintentional ingestions and adverse reactions to delta-8 among both adults and young people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some voiced concerns about the drug’s disorienting effects, which are similar to marijuana. For others, medical treatment was necessary.

The Food and Drug Administration warns consumers that these products haven’t been federally vetted and can be created using harmful chemicals. 

National poison control centers recorded over 2,000 delta-8 exposure cases during 2021, 41% of which involved patients younger than 18. Most were evaluated by health care professionals and 8% of those were admitted to a critical care unit. One death was recorded after a child ate a suspected delta-8 edible.

Watt welcomes more regulation in Wyoming, including the requirement of better, full-panel testing on all products. 

“Yes, that is very expensive,” he said. “But … you’re consuming this product into your body. Why would you [want to] be inhaling or eating a product that is extracted the wrong way?”

A delta-8 vape pen described as being an Indica strain
Delta-8 can come in similar forms, packaging and types as marijuana. (Madelyn Beck/WyoFile)

Watt visits the farms where he buys products, he said, making sure they’re using the safest methods of extracting delta-8. Then he sends products to a California company for testing. But none of that is required. 

“It does not say anywhere in Wyoming law saying that I have to [third party] test this, you know,” he said. “They just said make sure your delta-9 is lower than 0.3%.”

Still, Watt said someone came into one of his stores recently, telling his store manager, “this bill will pass, and you guys will not stand in our way.”

Is it even legal? 

There are a patchwork of laws regarding delta-8 across the U.S. 

More than a dozen states have banned products containing delta-8 and its isomers. While it allows recreational marijuana, even Colorado outlaws hemp-derived THC products, which include delta-8.

However, when Wyoming lawmakers asked experts about targeting synthetic delta-8 at a meeting in Sheridan this spring, Sarah Barrett with the state crime lab voiced her concerns: It’s impossible to tell synthetic delta-8 apart from naturally-occuring delta-8. 

“There’s no scientific way to determine the origin of that delta-8 THC,” she said.

Arkansas also tried to criminalize delta-8 and its similarly-structured cousins. However, a federal judge recently blocked implementation of the state’s law, finding it to be vague and possibly in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause.

The ruling doesn’t stop states from passing more restrictive drug laws, but the federal judge’s decision suggests laws must be clear and can’t restrict the travel of a substance that’s federally legal.

Delta-8’s federal legality is a question of its own, though. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that the Farm Bill’s language did make hemp-derived delta-8 legal. 

However, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials have stated the opposite, arguing that synthetic extractions from hemp weren’t exempted in the Farm Bill and are illegal. Congressmen and several agencies are eyeing ways to deal with the substances, though clear regulations are anything but certain in the near future.

Wyoming is one of only a dozen states nationally that hasn’t approved marijuana for either medical or recreational purposes. In the Mountain West, only Wyoming and Idaho have kept it fully illegal. 

As for Tuesday’s meeting in Casper, Co-Chairman Sen. Bill Landen (R-Casper) said the Judiciary Committee welcomes public input.

“I just don’t know a lot about it,” he said about delta-8. “I’ve got a lot to learn, as do, I think, a lot of legislators and a lot of our constituents. A lot of neighbors and friends. Certainly, it’s a popular thing.”

Landen said he’s heard from many people about the proposed legislation, but looks forward to more in-depth discussions going forward, including on Tuesday.  

“We welcome public comment,” he said. “Depending on how [many people] you get, sometimes you have to limit some public comment and ask for people to abbreviate whatever statements they might have … but that’s really what these meetings are all about.”

Details for Tuesday’s meeting can be found here.

Madelyn Beck reports from Laramie on health and public safety. Before working with WyoFile, she was a public radio journalist reporting for NPR stations across the Mountain West, covering regional issues...

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  1. In March 2023, I had one of the worst days of my life. I was fired from a job that I had been at for almost 8 years. My main duties was to mange several grants to help our disabled and senior citizens maintain a home so that they were able to age in place. I over saw 10 employees and over 100 eligible participants who were benefiting from these programs. I always worked a 10 hour day, even had close to 200 hours of PTO that I lost.
    To compile some of my back story, in 2009 I was injured on the job creating a difficult situation in my lower back, legs and feet. I had every possible test, injection, procedure done, except surgery. I did not want that and filing for complete disability to be the very last option since I have seen and heard good and bad results for similar situations that I am now dealing with. I have been declared partial disabled. I will not allow that to stop me from being a productive citizen with-in my community. As the years have gone by, the situation has worsen resulting in the pain as well. If it was not for my pain management team, I would be living in my bed 24/7. With chronic pain, opioids have increased as well. I am to take OxyContin 10/325 3 x a day, Gabapentin 1800 mg through out the day to be able to get out of bed, walk and do my best to work a full time job. Anyone who has been on any of these medications know, in-time your body builds a resistance, and meds must be increased or another opioid added, and your functionality declines immensely.
    In March of 2023, I was told about Delta-8. How it will help to decrease my pain, decrease the use of opioids, as well as save many of my bodily organs from the damage chronic use of opioids can cause. I knew Hemp products were legal in the State of Wyoming as well as Federally, so I ordered a package of gummies from a trusted sight. The gummies stated they had the legal amount of THC and had been extracted from the HEMP plant. I was nervous at first to take any of it since I had not done anything like this in the past. I started taking delta 8 on March 3rd, 2023 That night was the BEST night sleep in 14 years. I knew I could not just cold turkey my pain medication, so I started cutting back that exact day. Even though it was a short time I took Delta 8, I was able to get down to one Oxycontin a day and decrease my gabapentin as well.
    Yes, that is great news however, after the couple of days that I did took Delta 8 a random drug test was issued at my place of employment. Not thinking anything about it. I didn’t think I had anything to worry about. When they did a quick test in the bathroom, the tester told me I had tested positive for THC, and asked if I took medications, Absolutely, but still in shock. I was instructed what would happen next as to sending my test to a lab and to speak to my employer for their next step. That was something I did do, and I was told there was nothing that they could do until the results came back. I was shocked that it was positive. I had never in my life tested positive for anything, other than what I was being prescribed from my pain clinic providers. I immediately made an appointment with my Pain Clinic doctors, because I new this could jeopardies my contract with them, and I take that very seriously.
    It was with in 24 hours that I went in and seen my providers, I wanted them to test me, I wanted to see what their test stated. It was NEGATIVE!.
    I had stopped taking Delta 8 on March 10, 2023 due to another procedure I was having on March 21, 2023. When the results came back from the lab it had stated I had 109 ng in my system. I had not a clue what that meant. I relayed the message to my provider and they asked if I was able to drive to work that morning and function the time I was taking Delta 8. I replied yes, I had no issues what so ever. I felt rested, my pain seemed to be under control and I was able to do what I needed to do. My providers told me to have my supervisor contact them since they knew I was taking Delta 8, and they would explain everything to them.
    March 17, 2023 I was fired from my position. I told them exactly what my doctors wanted me to say, I even offered to call them myself. I was told it was not their problem and I must leave immediately.
    I have pushed through everyday to maintain my opioid use to 1 time a day. Somedays I want to cry all day because of the pain, but I know I have to do my best, because I will not allow them to win, I will not allow this to over take my ability to function. I will NOT be a statistic in the opioid world, just because people in our government can not decide how they wish to handle these situations. Yes, I could become a legal drug head or even an alcoholic, because that is ok!. I will continue to tell my story so people know, companies educate themselves, and hopefully educate our government!

  2. Let people be. We have enough silly rules/laws/regulations that drive up cost of bizzness. What would happen if a state legislature didn’t meet for a year? Think about that. All of life would go on normally.

  3. The President issued a request to the Federal Agency that determines what drugs are on what “schedule” (i.e., how legal it is to distribute them with I as medically useless and dangerous, to lower levels including Level III as legal and available with states able to regulate), asking them to move marijuana from Level I to Level III. As to the progress of this request, I do not know, but DEA has a whole process in order to downgrade a given drug. Marijuana IS medically useful, preferably not by smoking as the example of the person who has PTSD noted. 33 states have “legalized” medical marijuana, including Virginia. Hopefully this process will help sort out the political nonsense related to spreading false rumors and medical usefulness.

  4. Delta 8 THC doesn’t even rise to the level of 3.2 beer as a social demon. Thus the proposed legislation/ regulation intended to negate it is more of a testament to anti-cannabis bias, ignorance, and stupidity on the part of the naysayers.
    Bias can be unlearned, ignorance can be remedied with dosages of education. But as Albert Einstein was fond of quoting , ” Against stupidity even the gods struggle in vain”. We struggle with all things cannabis here in Wyoming.

  5. There’s no hope of keeping pot OR delta-8 out of the state, so we might as well just legalize and tax them. The people are voting with their wallets, and we need our too few law enforcement personnel to focus on crimes that are actually harmful.

    1. Why does one need a bill regulating what apparently isn’t a problem? Oh kids might it eat? Well kids eat worms as well. Let things be. World has enough worthless/useless regulations.