Discover more from Money Puff
This newsletter went from the candy man to the adult candy man
Delta 8 and an update on rolling papers
Puff! Puff! Puff! Puff! It’s science time! Today at Money Puff we’re talking about chemicals — some that get you high, some that don’t, some that are legal, some that are not.
Why? Because, thanks to shoddy regulations and slipshod policy, there is a whole lot of confusion out there about what components and compounds of the cannabis plant are legal under federal law. And so while I’m not a scientist, this newsletter is all about cannabis. I’ll try my best to make sense of it all.
Starting with the basics, cannabis is a herbaceous plant.1 That plant has different species. The primary distinction between species is the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the plant has. Plants with low THC are known as “hemp” and have been used for fiber, food, oilseed, medicine, and ritual for millennia. Hemp was even an important cash crop in the United States2 until World War II, when legislation like the Marihuana Tax Act and the Controlled Substances act decimated the industry.
Industrial hemp was collateral damage, though. What lawmakers really cared about was the other species of cannabis, the psychoactive kind.3 It is known as marijuana, weed, dope, stick-icky, and many other monikers. The distinction between weed — the preferred sobriquet of this newsletter — is sometimes further clarified between “sativa” and “indica.”4 However, due to its ancient origins, ubiquitous interbreeding, and hybridization, taxonomical distinction is notoriously difficult ; historically, it’s “almost meaningless.”
Despite the complexity in identification, if your beef is with the psychoactive compounds in cannabis, then what you really care about is the level of THC — you shouldn’t have beef with hemp. And so the The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, known as the Farm Bill, sought to establish a domestic hemp production program. The bill defines hemp as a “plant species Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not” with a THC concentration of “not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.” So there you have it.
But wait! The language of the bill specifically calls out “delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol” as the “primary psychoactive component of cannabis.” So now imagine, if you will, some enterprising capitalist reading this, behind greedy eyes and steepled fingers (Mr. Burns comes to mind). They would read this and then call up the FDA and DEA and the conversation would go something like this:
Capitalist: Delta-9 you say? Well, what about delta-8? Mua-ha-ha-ha.
FDA/DEA: Wait, what is delta-8? And why are you laughing like that?
But by that time the capitalist has already sold delta-8 in every gas station in Florida and pivoted the business to crypto. And that’s kind of what has happened!
But what is delta-8? It’s also a compound found in the cannabis plant, though often in less quantities than delta-9, and so it is typically manufactured from CBD (another federally legal compound). Both delta-8 and delta-9 possess psychoactive properties, though some say that delta-8 is less “potent.”5 Due to the poorly worded regs, shops everywhere started selling delta-8 products; the DEA even said delta-8 derived from hemp is federally legal under the rules. This is all quite embarrassing, as that was of course not the intent of the law, and the FDA has had to address public concerns and send “warning letters” to companies selling the products.
Nevertheless, a federal appeals court did in fact rule last year that delta-8 products are federally legal, as the Farm Bill “is silent with regard to delta-8 THC.” And it’s apparently selling pretty well. So well, in fact, that the delta-8 company 3CHI is a big NASCAR sponsor. Kyle Busch — who used to be sponsored by M&Ms — had this to say last week when asked about the prominent ad on his car:
The Farm Bill is set to expire this year, though, so presumably the regs will be updated.
The issue with these companies is they are devoting valuable resources and energy to regulatory games that distract from meaningful progress and change. We don’t need your synthetic chemicals, thanks — good ol’ fashioned weed works just fine. What we need is smart policy that will allow ready access to every person who needs THC. It’s medicine, not candy.
What rolling papers should you buy now?
I don’t know, but I think the answer has to be not RAW; we talked about RAW’s giant fraud last week. But it seems that not everyone would agree. Here’s a Leafly article tweeted out today that suggests RAW papers as one of the best you can buy (the article is from 2022, but still). And in the background of a video highlighting the recent opening of Union Square Travel Agency in New York, RAW cones were prominently displayed in a big bowl for purchase. People, they said they were saving lives with a foundation that did not even exist!
Put your recs for rolling papers in the comments — I’ve got to pivot too.
Herbaceous plants do not have a woody stem above ground. On the other hand, woody plants (like trees and shrubs) have hard stems that allow them to survive the winter; herbaceous plants die in the winter.
Although numerous lawsuits in the intervening years (page 3) did not provide relief for hemp producers.
Though apocryphal, indica strains are said to be relaxing and sedating, while sativa strains are said to be energizing and cerebral. Couch-lock vs. finger painting, you might say.
These claims are unsubstantiated.
The distinction here is that these compounds are synthetic, whereas delta-8 does exist naturally in the cannabis plant.