CPD letter calls Delta 8 illegal, leaving the future uncertain for hemp stores

Published: Aug. 29, 2023 at 7:53 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Delta-8 hemp products can be found across Columbia. The Columbia Police Department now calls them illegal.

On Monday, CPD sent letters to more than 30 stores across the city. The department informed management that Delta-8, Delta-10, and other THC isomers are illegal substances.

Delta-8 and 10 are chemicals which provide psychoactive effects in hemp.

The letter also reaffirms state law that unprocessed hemp is illegal. CPD has been publicly challenged on its view of what unprocessed hemp is.

Congress removed hemp as a controlled substance nationwide through the 2018 Farm Bill.

The federal law defines hemp as any cannabis plant that does not contain more than 0.3 percent Delta-9 THC.

The law is silent on Delta 8 and Delta 10 found in hemp, leaving products featuring those chemicals in a legal gray area. Regardless, shops carrying those products have spread across the city over the last five years.

The S.C. Attorney General’s Office released an opinion letter on Delta 8 and other isomers in 2021, calling them illegal. However, the opinion letter is not the law.

The Columbia Police Department’s new stance puts law enforcement behind that opinion. Infusion 420 Part-Owner Nichole Gibbs said it’s left her in “total confusion.”

“Here comes Columbia Police Department that just woke up one morning, that’s exactly how it feels, woke up one morning, and said ‘okay let’s take Delta 8 and Delta 10 off the shelves.’ What is the logic behind it? Why? What makes it illegal if it’s hemp-derived?” she asked.

The Columbia Police Department previously did not have any hemp policy and a WIS investigation found it relied on an unclear law for a January raid of hemp store Crowntown Cannabis.

“My five people, will be out of a job and I’ll say thank you to Columbia Police Department with their confusing literature,” she said.

Columbia Police Department spokesperson Jennifer Timmons said no member of CPD leadership was available for an interview on Tuesday.

Timmons said the letters were sent out to educate stores about the law.

The letter does provide a phone number to contact Sgt. Joe Richburg and Timmons said he reported most interactions with stores so far have been positive.

Gibbs said she did not share that view and Richburg did not respond to a request for a town hall on the issue.

“He spoke over me a lot about it and tried to explain it and just telling me by what the Attorney General says, he goes by what SLED says,” she said.

Gibbs said she would attempt to connect with other hemp store owners about organizing a response.

Attorney Bill Nettles said some blame falls on the industry for not getting the law clarified sooner.

“The way this should’ve been done, is that they should’ve gone in front of the court and made their case and gotten an order from the court clarifying this law, but the industry chose to just press on and see what happens,” he said.

Nettles said he is a supporter of Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook but questioned whether the department’s stance is an effective use of resources.

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