The Kentucky Hemp Association is suing the state after a series of police raids, arguing that a hemp-derived THC product called Delta-8 is legal.
Delta-8 is almost identical to Delta-9 THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, and triggers a similar but milder “high” in users.
Back in April, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s lawyer released a memo stating that Delta-8 products were illegal under federal and therefore state law. The memo keeps a list of controlled substances on the US Department of Justice website containing Delta-8.
Attorney Chris Wiest, who works on behalf of the Kentucky Hemp Association, says the ag department’s interpretation excludes language added under the Hemp Act 2018, which legalizes Delta-8 products made from hemp.
“So we’ve now filed a lawsuit to clarify that Delta-8 products are legal in Kentucky,” said Wiest. “I’m sure the Department of Agriculture will say that’s not the case and I think we just have to let a judge make that decision.”
Delta-8’s legality remains unclear across the country. Kentucky state police and other law enforcement agencies have raided at least five Delta-8 product stores since April, Wiest said.
Department of Agriculture spokesman Sean Southard said hemp advocates first reassured lawmakers that hemp was not an intoxicating substance and that the U.S. and Kentucky passed laws legalizing hemp by creating a definition that separated him from psychoactive forms of cannabis separates.
“Now some argue that the legislature accidentally legalized an intoxicating synthetic substance called Delta-8 THC. That position is outside the mainstream, so even Colorado – a state known for legalizing recreational marijuana – has banned Delta-8 THC products, “Southard said in an email.
Wiest says he will seek an injunction to stop raids on stores selling Delta-8 products if the case goes to a judge in August.