Apr. 4—JANESVILLE — Hemp 1848 employee Anna Bailey sat at the counter at the Hemp and CBD products shop at Uptown Janesville on Saturday afternoon, stuffing crushed hemp flowers into cone-shaped, prerolled paper joints.
The pungent-smelling hemp flowers had been sprayed with liquid, concentrated Delta-8-THC, a chemical compound that can give those who use it a psychoactive high similar to Delta-9-THC—the high-inducing chemical in marijuana.
The major difference between the sprayed hemp Bailey was packaging up and regular pot is that pot's active ingredient, Delta-9-THC, is a federal controlled substance that remains illegal to sell, possess and consume in Wisconsin.
But Delta-8-THC—known more informally as "D-8"—is derived from pot's legal cousin, hemp. That makes D-8-THC legal under a loophole in a set of 2018 federal farming rules that govern the production, sale and use of hemp products.
And while experts say D-8 products are a tetrahydrocannabinoid that can deliver a high similar to regular pot, D-8 is currently lawful to sell, possess and use, officials say.
Some local shops that sell the legal, non-intoxicating, hemp-derived chemical cannibidiol, or CBD, in recent months have added to their shelves a variety of hemp products treated with D-8 concentrates.
The Janesville Police Department in an alert on Friday said some local sellers are advertising D-8 flowers, gummies and concentrates as "legal THC."
Police are cautioning that some of the new D-8 products have only been on the market a year or two. Some remain largely unregulated and untested and can have potent intoxicating effects, police said.
Cops also point out that driving intoxicated on any strain of THC, marijuana or not, is unlawful, and Janesville police said in the alert that some local residents have had "adverse" effects after using D-8 products, including anxiety and nausea.
While marijuana remains illegal under state law, local sellers say the legal cousin to weed, D-8, is seeing dramatic growth in sales in Janesville. Hemp 1848, which operates two stores in Janesville, has been selling D-8 THC products since around the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. One Hemp 1848 official said the company's shop at the former Janesville Mall has seen a "200%" jump in sales in D-8 in the last few months.
"They've been selling really, really well," Bailey said, pointing to the D-8 joints as she placed them in a glass jar on the sale counter marked "Prerolls: $15 each."
Police said cannabis with Delta-8-THC is reported to be milder in its effects than Delta-9-THC. But but it is still reported to cause intoxication in users, unlike hemp-based cannabidiol, or CBD, which does not cause intoxication.
And unlike the so-called synthetic cannabinoids, which contain unknown, unregulated chemical compounds that can mimic the intoxicating effects of pot, Delta-8-THC is a naturally occurring cannabinoid.
Police said some residents report the products, including gummy candies, vaping oils, chewables and leaves, have "extremely high concentrations of Delta-8-THC that can lead to adverse health effects and impairment."
Janesville police said it may be legal to sell Delta-8-THC, but consumption can cause impairment, and police suggest that driving under the influence of Delta-8-THC could lead to arrests for intoxicated driving.
Police said blood and urine tests can show the presence of Delta-8-THC.
Josh Fay, a wholesale representative for Hemp 1848 who works at the company's mall shop and its other location on East Milwaukee Street in downtown Janesville, and his coworker Darcy Larum said the products, particularly D-8 THC gummy candies that the store makes and sells, can be potent for those who may be unaccustomed to their psychoactive effects.
Recently, Fay said, police came to Hemp 1848's shop at the mall because someone had reported they'd seen a sign outside the shop that read: "Legal THC." Fay said police said the person had assumed the shop was selling pot.
Fay said he showed police lab documents along with legal paperwork he keeps on file to show all the varieties of D-8 he sells are lumped together in the same classification as legal hemp products.
Fay adds concentrated, liquid D-8-THC to some hemp products he sells in a proportion that he said delivers a psychoactive effect that's about "90%" as potent as regular pot.
Hemp 1848's D-8 products come with a stickers about advised doses and the possible intoxicating effects of the products. The packaging also has QR code stickers that police can scan electronically to reference information from the labs that produced the D-8.
One of Hemp 1848's products, lime-flavored D-8-THC gummies, is advertised as having 100 milligrams of D-8. The labeling on the package suggests people consume just one gummy and be prepared for effects that could take a few hours to peak and then linger for six hours or more.
Fay said he and other Hemp 1848 employees caution those who buy D-8 products that they should be careful of intoxicating effects, and he cautions them not to drive after they've used the products.
Larum, whose title with Hemp 1848 is "cannabis specialist," said she works with customers to determine what products they might want. She said some customers are recreational cannabis users, but many others are people who are looking for relief from seizure disorders, chronic pain, anxiety and other long-term illnesses.
"I talk to every customer about what their issues are, and I try to find out which product might be right for them. It may not be Delta-8-THC. It might be pure CBD oil," Larum said. "You know, it's not about everybody's going to go and get high. It's more about wellness. We're trying to help people."