Oct. 2—Products that contain enough THC to get people "high" are legally available in Manhattan and the rest of the state, due to a loophole created by new laws.
Delta-8, a version of the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) compound derived from hemp plants, are available to customers 21 and up at several stores that have previously sold cannabis products without THC.
Delta-8 THC is an isomer of delta-9 THC, which is the psychoactive compound in marijuana that gets a person high. The only difference between the two molecules is the location of a double bond between two carbons. That difference is enough that delta-8 is legal for sale in Kansas because it does not meet the definition of marijuana. Products containing it have started appearing on local shelves, as well as those around the state, in recent months.
Local stores currently offering it include CBD American Shaman, Sacred Leaf and Hazy Haven. Some local liquor stores like Beer Goggles Superstore offer candy bars or other edibles with delta-8, and Juicy's Vapor Lounge recently announced having delta-8 slushies.
Authorities say consumption of products featuring THC varieties like delta-8 — ranging from gummy candies and chocolate bars to pre-rolled joints and beef jerky — can lead to a milder "high" than its federally illegal sibling, delta-9.
The "high" sensation usually consists of feelings such as happiness, euphoria and muscle relaxation. People also use CBD and other hemp products without THC to deal with anxiety, pain and inflammation.
Delta-8 is extracted from hemp and cannabis plants on an industrial level for the manufacture of a wide range of products, including edibles, smokables and tinctures.
In May, the state Legislature passed House Bill 2244, which allows for the sale of full-spectrum CBD products (some containing up to a 0.3% legal THC limit) and items made from hemp seed that are produced in the state. As a practical matter, that meant stores can sell delta-8 products that may contain enough THC to get a person "high" in Kansas, even though recreational marijuana is prohibited, and even though the fact that it would allow such sales was not discussed by the Legislature .
Sen. Tom Hawk, D-Manhattan, said he hasn't heard "anybody talk in the Legislature" about delta-8, and he said it wasn't even a topic brought up during discussions about medical marijuana legalization earlier this year. That bill remained in limbo as the session ended.
He said both the Farm Bill and HB 2244 "sort of overlap" in the field of CBD products derived from hemp, and although none is being considered right now, any additional regulation would "only come if the products are found to be intoxicating" in some way and "people wind up doing crazy stuff" while consuming them.
"As far as any kind of policy goes, there would be two questions: is it harmful to people, and if so, maybe we should limit it," Hawk said. "Alcohol is harmful to people, but we don't prohibit its use, we regulate its use. I sort of feel the same way potentially about this (delta-8)."
Riley County Police Department spokesman Aaron Wintermote said delta-8 and other THC products sold in the area "haven't really been an issue as far as a police standpoint." He said the bigger issue with these products will come from people who are required to take a drug test.
"For people on probation, things like that, they might think it's okay to take (delta-8) because it's legal," Wintermote said, "but they could still fail a drug test."
Wintermote said officers on patrol have "some working knowledge" of delta-8 and other legal THC products. He said delta-8 is "definitely not something we're out looking for," and that he would still not recommend driving after consuming something with THC in it.
"Even if it's a small amount of THC, you might not know how it actually affects you until you take it," Wintermote said.
Delta-8 THC products have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA, though it's often marketed as therapeutic.
Local sellers said the most common dosage of THC in products is 20 milligrams, although some edibles like gummies can come with a much higher delta-8 content. Allison Baker, manager of the Sacred Leaf CBD store in Manhattan, said dosage is an important factor in determining how THC might affect someone.
Baker said she was "kind of surprised" by the popularity of delta-8 products when she started carrying them earlier this year at Sacred Leaf.
"We didn't have that many people coming in and asking about it at first," Baker said. "One thing I was really surprised at, it's not college kids coming and buying it, it's older people, professionals."
Tammy Roca said she visits the CBD American Shaman store in Manhattan weekly to restock on treatments for the severe pain she lives with because of scoliosis. The 59-year-old, originally from Pueblo, Colorado, said prescriptions and over-the-counter medications weren't working.
She said she now uses a variety of delta-8 and CBD products to help her manage her pain. She said her doctor encourages her to use them after "noticing a considerable difference" in her mobility and energy levels.
"This is my pain medicine," Roca said. "I'm able to get out with my grandson, I'm able to walk my dog again. I'd be remiss if I said I was healed, but this keeps me going."
Donald Ince, owner of the Manhattan CBD American Shaman, said most of his customers have "some kind of issue or condition they're looking for help with."
"We try to target what's going to be the best (product) for them," Ince said. "And yeah, sometimes people come in because they want something because they're bored."