Jonathan Udell (right) at Arizona NORML Expungement Clinic
By Ryan Randazzo | Arizona Republic
Inside an herb shop in Tempe, tucked on the shelves along with milky oats and lemon balm, are a variety of marijuana-infused snacks and sodas that are so strong, the clerk warned a shopper that two customers went to the emergency room after trying them.
The customers were fine, he added. “Just really high.”
Normally a person would have to visit a licensed dispensary to buy marijuana, but so-called “Delta-8” and other products made from hemp are available at convenience stores, smoke shops and other retailers.
Unlike marijuana sold in licensed shops, these products aren’t regulated by the Department of Health Services. Children can buy them — there are no age restrictions. The products don’t include a state excise tax that funds, among other things, marijuana regulation. And there’s no limit on the potency like regular marijuana edibles in the state.
Arizona lawmakers are grappling with this booming market in unregulated, intoxicating products made from hemp, with debate scheduled Monday on legislation that would clarify their ambiguous legal status.
The physical effects of Delta-8 and other hemp-derived products are typically milder than regular marijuana, depending on how much is ingested. Some users have described it as “diet weed.”
“As it stands today, Arizona’s hemp program is an oasis of economic opportunity in an otherwise desolate landscape for cannabis-minded entrepreneurs and consumers,” NORML State Director Jon Udell said. “Under the marijuana program, there are only about 170 licenses for all of Arizona — in contrast to 810 active liquor store licenses for Maricopa County alone.”