Indiana's Delta-8 Industry Faces Legal Uncertainty Amid Regulatory Debate

Indiana's delta-8 industry, worth over $1 billion, faces legal uncertainty as lawmakers disagree on regulation. A federal judge ruled Indiana's ban on delta-8 can remain in effect, pending further legal battles.

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Nitish Verma
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Indiana's Delta-8 Industry Faces Legal Uncertainty Amid Regulatory Debate

Indiana's Delta-8 Industry Faces Legal Uncertainty Amid Regulatory Debate

Indiana's booming delta-8 industry, worth over $1 billion, is grappling with legal uncertainty as lawmakers disagree on how to regulate the marijuana-like drug. Delta-8, a hemp-derived psychoactive substance, has grown into a major industry in the state since 2018, with hundreds of retail stores and gas stations selling hemp-based cannabinoid products.

Why this matters: The legal status of delta-8 has far-reaching implications for the cannabis industry as a whole, as well as for public health and safety. As more states consider regulating or banning delta-8, the outcome of this debate could set a precedent for the future of cannabis regulation nationwide.

The legal status of delta-8 remains murky, prompting calls for legislative clarification. The Indiana State Police has long held that delta-8 is a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it has no accepted medical use but a high potential for abuse. Lawmakers have filed unsuccessful attempts to regulate delta-8, with some proposing to ban most delta-8 products.

Republicans in the Indiana Senate and House disagree on how to approach delta-8 regulation. Sen. Mike Young (R-Indianapolis) wants to ban delta-8, citing concerns about its impact on mental faculties. "If that's what the House of Representatives wants is to have people alter their faculties, they did the right thing," Young said. Sen. Liz Brown (R-Fort Wayne) worries about health and safety, particularly for children, and wants clearer guidelines on delta-8.

Rep. Jake Teshka (R-North Liberty) believes regulation is the best way to address concerns about delta-8. "The legislature needs to act to provide regulatory certainty for businesses and legal certainty for both law enforcement and prosecutors," Teshka said. Vanderburgh County Sheriff Noah Robinson directed his deputies to back off on enforcement of delta-8 in February 2023, saying, "I like knowing the law that I'm enforcing has solid ground underneath it."

In 2018, Congress revived the industrial hemp industry by removing it from the definition of marijuana. The Farm Bill legalized hemp-derived products, including delta-8, as long as they contain no more than 0.3% delta-9 THC. However, individual states have the right to extend federal regulations on cannabinoids, imposing their own restrictions.

Some states, including Arizona, Arkansas, and New York, have banned the sale of delta-8 THC. In Arkansas, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed SB358 into law in April 2023, effectively banning delta-8, with enforcement set to begin on August 1, 2023. Despite its legal status, delta-8 products remain widely available in Indiana, with many vendors selling them as edibles, vape cartridges, and tinctures with no oversight.

In June 2023, Indiana's top attorney opined that delta-8 is illicit, leading to a lawsuit from retailers alleging raids and other repercussions. A federal judge ruled that Indiana's ban on delta-8 can remain in effect, despite the lawsuit from industry stakeholders seeking to nullify the ban. As the legal battle continues, the future of Indiana's billion-dollar delta-8 industry hangs in the balance, with businesses and consumers eagerly awaiting legislative clarification on the regulation and legality of the controversial drug.

Key Takeaways

  • Indiana's delta-8 industry is worth over $1 billion, but faces legal uncertainty.
  • The legal status of delta-8 is unclear, with lawmakers disagreeing on regulation.
  • Some lawmakers propose banning delta-8, while others advocate for regulation.
  • Indiana's attorney general considers delta-8 illicit, sparking a lawsuit from retailers.
  • The outcome of this debate could set a precedent for cannabis regulation nationwide.