In 2018, a farm bill passed that allowed for the sale and use of certain hemp-derived cannabinoid products. It’s why you can purchase CBD oils and products in certain stores or online. Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-8 THC), sometimes called “diet weed,” is another type of cannabinoid that has some psychoactive effects. The sale and purchase of delta-8 has been limited to people over the age of 21.
Per The Tennessean, the bipartisan bill to regulate cannabinoid products like delta-8 was signed into law by Governor Lee:
[The new law] will also require stores to move hemp-derived products behind the counter, establish new product testing and packaging requirements, and impose a 6% state tax on the products. Age restrictions, product location requirements and sales tax will take effect on July 1,  while businesses and government agencies have until next year to implement some other regulations.
The primary objective of this law is to address the potential risks associated with minors accessing and using hemp-derived products. House Majority Leader William Lamberth, one of the bill’s sponsors, expressed concerns about children accessing and overdosing on delta-8 products that were readily available in gas stations. To prevent this, the law establishes age restrictions, mandates proof-of-age checks for purchases and requires these products to be moved behind the counter. Penalties for illegal sales or infringements of the new sales requirements can amount to fines of up to $2,500 per infraction or up to a year of imprisonment.
On the manufacturer side of these products, this new law also mandates proper labeling, testing and packaging requirements for hemp-derived products. The aim is to differentiate legal hemp-derived products from illegal marijuana and prevent consumers from unintentionally purchasing prohibited substances. The law also introduces marketing restrictions that prohibit the use of appeals to individuals under the age of 21, such as featuring cartoon characters or animal-shaped ingestibles (candies or gummies).
The implementation of a 6% tax on retail sales of hemp-derived products will provide funding for regulatory efforts. The Departments of Revenue and Agriculture will be responsible for collecting this tax and submitting annual compliance reports to the legislature.
While this law addresses concerns related to hemp-derived products, Tennessee’s stance on marijuana remains unchanged. Marijuana is still illegal and there is little sign of that changing in the near future. These delta-8 regulations have been specifically designed to safeguard consumers, particularly minors, and provide clarity for businesses operating in the hemp industry.
What is the difference between delta-8 and marijuana?
First, the term “delta-8” refers to the chemical composition of the cannabis product, especially in connection to THC content. THC is the psychoactive chemical that delivers the “high” sensation that marijuana users often seek. The differences between delta-8 cannabis products and marijuana, or delta-9, is their concentration of THC.
Delta-9 is known for its potent psychoactive effects, often associated with the “high” experienced when consuming marijuana. Delta-8, on the other hand, is generally reported to produce a milder and more subtle feeling compared to delta-9. Users often describe it as providing a more relaxed and clear-headed experience. This distinction is where the term “diet weed” comes from in relation to delta-8, as it produces a milder, yet similar, form of marijuana’s effects.
Although delta-8 is widely available, an aggressive prosecutor may attempt to argue that delta-8 is somehow a “synthetic equivalent” of marijuana and tetrahydrocannabinols pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann., § 39-17-415(3). Because this statute specifically provides that it does not categorize hemp as defined in § 43-27-101, however, this would be a difficult argument for the State.
What if my child is caught with delta-8?
In Sevierville, like in all of Tennessee, if a minor is found in possession of a legally purchased delta-8 cannabis product, the responsibility and legal consequences primarily fall on the child rather than the parents. The new law focuses on regulating the sale and purchase of these products, particularly with regards to minors, rather than penalizing parents for their children’s actions.
However, it’s important to note that if the parents knowingly provided the delta-8 product to their underage child or facilitated their access to it, they could potentially face legal repercussions. Tennessee law prohibits adults from providing restricted products to individuals under the age of 21. If parents are found to have knowingly enabled their child’s possession of delta-8 or assisted them in obtaining it, they will be subject to charges and penalties under the law.
And those penalties can be severe. As of July 2021, any parent who puts a child in “‘imminent’ danger of death, bodily injury or physical or mental impairment” could end up facing criminal charges. If you have legal delta-8 products in your home and your young child is able to find them, access them, and ingest/use them – even without your knowledge – you could be convicted of a felony crime.
It is advisable for parents to take precautions to store their hemp-derived cannabinoid products securely and out of reach of their underage children to avoid any potential legal issues. By ensuring responsible storage and preventing access to these products, parents can mitigate the risk of their children possessing or using them unlawfully.
What are the penalties of delta-8 possession by a minor in Tennessee?
Under the new law, possession of a delta-8 product by a minor (or anyone under the age of 21) will be treated as a civil offense:
for which the general sessions or juvenile court may, in its discretion, impose a civil penalty of not less than ten dollars ($10.00) nor more than fifty dollars ($50.00), which may be charged against a person who is at least eighteen (18) years of age but less than twenty-one (21) years of age, or, in the case of a minor, against a parent, guardian, or custodian. The general sessions or juvenile court may, in its discretion, also impose community service work not to exceed fifty (50) hours or successful completion of a prescribed court program for a second or subsequent violation within a one-year period.
So, the good news is that your child shouldn’t have a criminal record hanging over their heads. However, if your child has taken or used a delta-8 product and then is accused of committing a crime, like driving under the influence or theft, they may face a different set of challenges. Make sure to call us as soon as possible so we can help you protect your kids.
Tennessee is a no-nonsense state when it comes to drug enforcement. If you or a family member is accused of illegal possession or sale of delta-8 products make the right decision and seek experienced representation. The trusted and tenacious defense attorneys at Delius & McKenzie have the team and tools ready to protect your rights and ensure the truth of the situation is known. Call or contact us today at our Sevierville office to schedule your consultation. Proudly serving clients in Sevierville, Seymour, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the surrounding areas, including Bristol, Johnson City, and Kingsport.
Attorney Bryan E. Delius was born and raised in Sevier County, TN. He founded Delius & McKenzie more than 20 years ago, after receiving his JD from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He is admitted in Tennessee and in several federal court systems. Learn more about Bryan E. Delius.