FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – Delta-8 usage is becoming increasingly problematic among military ranks, said Michael Hicks, installation drug test coordinator, Army Substance Abuse Program.
Part of the problem, aside from the misconception that Delta-8 does not contain tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is that it is widely available for sale online and in stores, Hicks said. Despite its availability, Delta-8 is an illegal substance in the Army and is strictly prohibited.
“Per AR 600-85, The Army Substance Abuse Program, Soldiers are prohibited from using hemp or hemp derivative products,” he said. “The use of hemp/CBD products is a violation of Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and users are subject to punitive actions.”
Article 92 of the UCMJ covers failure to obey a lawful order or regulation.
The THC in Delta-8 is a close relative of the main psychoactive compound in cannabis that produces feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and potential pain relief, but milder, Hicks said.
Although Delta-8 can be found in products like gummies, sprays and oils, chocolates, infused beverages, and vapes it is potentially harmful because it is synthetically produced in a lab, has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, and is sold with little to no regulation, he said.
Delta-8 is found naturally in the hemp plant, but usually in low concentrations that make extraction techniques inefficient. It is instead synthesized from CBD extracted from hemp through isomerization in a laboratory.
Over the last several years, hemp derivatives such as CBD and Delta-8 have gained popularity and are legally sold in shops near the installation, Hicks said.
The Delta-8 compound was not explicitly addressed in the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized CBD and other derivatives of hemp. Because of this, Delta-8 can be sold off-post without legal consequence, which has caused confusion among Soldiers as to why it is prohibited in the Army, said Chief Keith Shumate, Installation Provost Marshal Office.
“If you drive up and down the street, you’ll see it advertised in great big neon letters, but it’s still prohibited for use by military members,” Shumate said.
Another common misconception is that Delta-8 must be harmless because it is so readily available. This is not true, Shumate said. Anyone using the substance is at risk of experiencing negative side effects.
“The only difference between Delta-8 THC and Delta-9 THC [the psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis] is where it attaches to the carbon molecule,” he said. “It has the same euphoric effect and people using it are risking their ability to do their jobs and other things like operate vehicles safely or maintain their equipment.”
Hicks said the side effects are different for everyone, but no matter what the substance negatively impacts performance and overall health.
“Delta-8 adversely affects readiness,” he said. “Possible effects may include vomiting, lethargy, uncoordinated movements, slurred speech, increased heart rate, low blood pressure, difficulty breathing, sedation, memory loss, anxiety, and coma.”
Part of the danger associated with Delta-8 consumption is that there is little oversight as to how much goes into the products containing it, Hicks said.
“The danger for not only Soldiers, but also civilians, is that listed concentration levels in many of these products may or may not be accurate,” he said.
Failed drug tests
The rise in Delta-8 usage among Soldiers has led to an increase in failed drug tests not only at Fort Campbell, but Army-wide, Hicks said.
“THC has always been a major issue when it came to usage among the ranks of the military,” he said. “However, in recent years, it has really come to be more of an issue. The passage of the Agriculture Improvement Act, Public Law 115-334 [also known as the 2018 Farm Bill] by Congress, effectively legalized the commercial production of many items infused with THC.”
As a result, the number of Soldiers testing positive for THC has increased.
“The vast majority of our drug positives involve Delta-8 usage and far outweighing many of the other drugs that we test for,” Hicks said.
The number of Soldiers who face consequences for using Delta-8 unfortunately does not seem to be slowing down, Shumate said.
Hicks said there should be no confusion as to what will happen if Soldiers use Delta-8.
“They are in violation of Article 92 and subject to punitive actions for using, possessing, selling, and/or distributing any items containing Delta-8,” he said.
The Fort Campbell ASAP staff is available to answer questions anyone may have concerning illicit drugs and alcohol use, Hicks said. ASAP can be reached 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday at 270-798-4411 or 270 798-7270.