Despite its illegality, marijuana strain is being sold in Mississippi due to a legal loophole
BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX/Gray News) - As the push continues from lawmakers to legalize marijuana in Mississippi, the South Mississippi Metro Enforcement Team said some businesses are already selling a strain of the drug, and there’s nothing police can do about it.
Delta 8 THC is a natural cannabinoid compound that appears in marijuana. It’s a THC analog, so it has a similar structure to delta 9 THC — commonly referred to just as “THC” — but with a slight difference. Structurally, delta 8 THC has a double bond at the eighth position on the carbon chain, while delta 9 THC has it at the ninth position. Delta 8 THC is similar in its effect on the human body to delta 9 THC, producing a psychoactive effect.
The FDA reports that delta-8 THC has psychoactive and intoxicating effects, similar to delta-9 THC (i.e., the component responsible for the “high” people may experience from using cannabis).
Delta 8 THC also differs from delta 9 in its legality. While THC is prohibited federally and in most states, including Mississippi, delta 8 THC remains legal in most areas across the country.
“So what we’re seeing being sold in vape pens in these vape shops is Delta 8,” veteran narcotics officer Joe Nicholson told WLOX. “It’s a strain of marijuana. Delta 8 is illegal in Mississippi.”
However, there’s one caveat.
“Except they’re putting it in vape pens, and the vape pen itself is less than a milliliter,” Nicholson explained. “Our state statute defines a dosage unit as a milliliter or more.”
Mississippi Code 41-29-139 states in order to charge someone, law enforcement must have a dosage unit. Because of that technicality, vape shop owners that offer it are not in the wrong.
“If you don’t have a dosage unit, you can’t charge them,” Nicholson said. “The crime lab won’t test it. We’ve tried it, we’ve sent it. The crime lab has told us we can’t test it because it’s less than a milliliter anyway and it doesn’t define as a dosage unit.”
Nicholson said said the root of the problem is money.
“This is all profit-driven,” he said. “There is no other reason to sell it. It is profit-driven. It’s not being labeled as medical use or anything else like that, and when you can’t control those things that are profit driven, you don’t know who’s getting their hands on it, who’s buying it, if it’s geared towards kids and if they’re getting it. It’s hard to detect. The only thing that we can ask them then is if they know it’s illegal. They know what’s in it, they just shouldn’t be selling it, but what someone shouldn’t be doing and what I can do by the law, is two different things.”.
Nicholson said law enforcement can only enforce the laws that are on the books, and that it takes the legislature to fix the problem in order to prevent illegal substances from being sold over the counter.
The FDA warns against Delta-8 THC products, saying they have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA for safe use and may be marketed in ways that put the public health at risk.
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