As Delta-8 products fill smoke shop shelves with everything from jars of bud to snack-mimicking edibles like Stoner Patch Dummies, the line between smoke shops and dispensaries is blurring.
Any 18-year-old has a menu of legal edibles to choose from, and 21-year-olds get an extended edition of THC prerolls, flower, wax cartridges and disposable vapes — no medical card required.
Delta-8 is one of many legal THC products sold on shelves. Florida’s 2018 Farm Bill requires the THC in such products to be 0.3% or less of the product’s weight. At that level, Delta-8 and other THC products don’t meet the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act, even though the products can get users high.
“It weighs a lot less but the same punch,” said Kylie Duarte, a 21-year-old sales associate at Smoke City, noting that it would still cause users to fail a drug test.
The Delta-9 isomer, the part of the wider THC molecule that’s responsible for the signature high feeling of pot, can still be sold within those legal limits, as can the other legal varieties of Delta-10, THC-0, HHC and THCV. The limits provide a legal loophole, bringing THC to the mainstream as these isomers are extracted and infused into products.
Delta-8’s biggest appeals are its accessibility and legality, students say. Highs can be bought over-the-counter, on-demand, instead of around the corner at a dealer’s convenience.
“It’s just easier to get,” said Kalani Carrion, a 20-year-old Santa Fe international business sophomore. He also said the affordability is a benefit.
A pack of PurLyf edible gummies packs a total of 350 milligrams of THC for $22. On the street, the same investment would yield about two grams of marijuana. The LA Times smoke calculator puts that THC content at 215 milligrams, with 99 of them lost due to heating.
Delta-8 being a legal product also eliminates paranoia over police punishment.
“I got pulled over for a dab cart,” said Nicholas Mulhearn, a 21-year-old salesman for SPV hospitality. “[Police] were like, ‘This is a felony.’ They put handcuffs on me. It didn’t have a label on it so I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s Delta-8.’ They immediately took them off me, and let me go.”
The products are popular among all ages and especially with those who wouldn’t try marijuana illegally, Duarte said. The synthetic process that creates Delta-8 can translate to an altered high that new users may not notice.
Delta-8 is a top-selling product, Duarte said. Though the disposable vapes and edibles are the most popular forms, she said people get excited at the visuals of the candy-colored, snack-emulating products (one popular variety emulates Nerds Rope), and about seven out of ten customers buy some form of them.
But not every student is a fan.
“[Delta-8] is like weed’s stupid little cousin,” said Babar Rashid, a 23-year-old sales associate at Smoke City. “It feels like you’re almost gonna get high, and then it never comes.”
A 21-year-old UF political science senior, who requested anonymity because he plans to join the armed forces, said he has only used Delta-8 when he couldn’t find pot. He said it feels artificial, causes a weird thought loop and makes people think they’re high when they’re not actually high.
Duarte said she has a medical marijuana card. She said the Delta-8 experience is not similar, as the taste is synthetic and the high is more of a “buzzy” experience compared to the clarity of a medical high.
“It makes you feel stupid,” she said. “People just want to feel something.”
Alex Ilardi, a 25-year-old Sales Associate at Highly Concentr8, said the last few years have brought a boom of cannabis research, and slight differences in cannabinoid concentrations between products may be responsible for differences in reactions.
“If you’re somebody who’s interested in buying this product, pay attention to who you buy it from,” he said. “There’s exploitation in new markets always.”
Regarding product transparency, Rashid and Duarte both acknowledged the packaging of Delta-8 and similar products must include a QR code to a full lab report to ensure quality and accountability. Without one, buyers have no way to tell what’s inside the product or who manufactured it.
But the packaging can get careless.
For instance, Duarte recalls a mini-version of THCV edibles that have the same packaging as its larger version — incorrectly describing the product’s serving size and quantity.
“It’s really suspicious honestly,” Rashid said. “Who’s selling it? Who’s making it?”
One package of Better Delta Spectrum+ Delta-9 gummies had a printed expiration date of Sept. 2023. The package’s linked lab report lists an expiration date of Sept. 2022.
“Just smoke weed,” Duarte said.
Contact Anna Ward at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnaWard_.