Louisiana to regulate (but not ban) delta-8 THC

Louisiana is set to allow hemp-derived delta-8 THC in food, a surprising step as more than a dozen states are going the opposite direction and banning the THC isomer or limiting it to marijuana retailers.

The Louisiana position came in an email this week from the Louisiana Department of Health, which told businesses that applications are open to register for licenses to make foods containing cannabinoids.

“This includes the addition of food products containing CBD and delta-8 (THC) products,” the agency clarified.

Louisiana’s health department cited a new law that clears the path for delta-8 THC. That’s because the law creates a new category for “consumable hemp,” which is defined as “any product derived from industrial hemp that contains any cannabinoids and is intended for consumption or topical use.”

Delta-8 THC is an isomer of the better known delta-9 THC for which marijuana is bred. The isomer is rare in the cannabis plant but can be easily made from extracted CBD, which has opened new market opportunities because drug laws across the country generally address only delta-9 THC.

Some 18 states have responded to the rise of delta-8 THC sales by banning the cannabinoid. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration warned last month that the cannabinoid is causing illnesses, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has added it to its “orange book” as an intoxicant that should be classified the same as delta-9 THC.

Louisiana has a limited medical-marijuana market with just nine operating dispensaries, which are projected to hit a cumulative $25 million-$30 million in sales this year, according to the 2021 MJBiz Factbook.

The delta-8 change in Louisiana comes on the heels of that state opening the sale of smokable marijuana flower, with sales to begin in 2022.