Updated: Mar 25, 2022
A judge in Fulton County, Georgia, has temporarily ended the threat of raids for shops selling gummies, vapes, or other products that contain delta-8 and delta-10 THC.
The judge on March 18 granted a 30-day restraining order stopping the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office from cracking down on hemp-derived THC, reports 11 Alive news.
The crackdown started after the DA’s office issued a warning to businesses January 25, saying it would soon start criminally charging retailers selling delta-8 and delta-10 THC.
A distribution warehouse in Gwinnett County was raided Feb. 22, with officers seizing about $2 million in product. At least one other distributor was also raided, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The Gwinnett County Police Department has distanced itself from the raids, the Journal-Constitution reports, saying its officers weren’t involved in either raid and the department was still evaluating the law around delta-8.
Under the threat of raids, two Gwinnett County vape shops pulled the products in question but sued the DA’s office and the state of Georgia in early March, contending that delta-8 and delta-10 are legal.
Represented by the law firm Pate, Johnson & Church, the shop owners requested a temporary restraining order and asked the court to rule on whether hemp-derived THC is legal in Georgia.
“I have concerns that this may or may not be a rogue DA.”
— Judge Craig Schwall
In granting the temporary restraining order, the judge wrote that the DA’s enforcement efforts could drive these shops out of business, possibly without a legal basis.
“I have concerns that this may or may not be a rogue DA,” Judge Craig Schwall said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I think there may be some prosecutorial priorities misplaced.”
Next, the judge will consider granting an interlocutory injunction, which would have a similar effect of pausing enforcement action while the question of whether hemp-derived THC is legal makes its way through the court. The case could set a statewide precedent on hemp-derived THC products.
What are Delta-8 and Delta-10 THC?
On a molecular level, delta-8 and delta-10 THC are kin to the most well-known tetrahydrocannabinol, delta-9 THC. And they have similar psychotropic effects, though many say they’re less intense than delta-9.
Although delta-8 and 10 occur naturally in cannabis in trace concentrations, the products on shelves today are first extracted as CBD, then chemically converted to THC. They’ve become popular in places where delta-9 is prohibited because they’re derived from hemp and legal by the letter of the law. The 2018 Farm Bill and many state regulations restrict delta-9 THC specifically, and not other THC isomers.
The Fight to Keep Hemp-Derived THC Legal in Georgia
According to the 2019 Georgia Hemp Farming Act, hemp-derived isolates and extracts containing no more than 0.3 percent delta-9 THC are legal in the state.
At issue in the Georgia court case is how to interpret those words.
According to the DA’s office, the fact that isomers like delta-8 and 10 are not explicitly named in the act makes them illegal.
“The Georgia code specifically exempts ‘delta-9-THC’ under certain concentrations, not delta-8-THC,” the DA wrote in the Jan. 25 warning letter.
But Tom Church of Pate, Johnson & Church, the firm suing the DA on behalf of retailers has said the opposite.
"These are all cannabinoids that are explicitly legal under the hemp law,” he told Fox 5 Atlanta.
Judges have ordered similar halts on enforcement in Texas and Kentucky as the same legal question works its way through courts. In Georgia, a judge must still settle the matter of how to interpret current state laws, unless lawmakers clarify with updated policy.
It’s also possible that hemp-derived THC could become illegal across the nation. A bill introduced to Congress in February, the Hemp Advancement Act, revises language from the 2018 Farm Bill that put concentration limits solely on delta-9. The new definition would include all THC. If passed, it could end legal sales of gummies, vapes, and other products made with hemp-derived THC at the national level.