INDIANA – (WTWO/WAWV) – The legislative session in Indiana has come to a close, and while there were several bills regarding the decriminalization of marijuana proposed, none made it out of committee.

However, there is a substance legal in Indiana that some call “diet weed”, and experts said can cause very similar side effects to marijuana.

“On one hand we have the marijuana plant. The marijuana plant contains Delta-9 THC. So Delta-9 THC, that’s the psycho-active substance. That’s where the high comes from. That’s the plant, the marijuana plant is what’s FDA regulated. It’s obviously illegal, it’s criminalized in many states, legalized in some states,” Dr. Darren Brucken, Vigo County Health Commissioner, said.

If you stop by a smoke shop, you may notice they sell something called “Delta-8” which is derived from CBD.

“Hemp is not FDA-regulated, hemp contains CBD oil, and cannabinoids. So that is where CBD comes from. So that is legal to possess, that is legal to sell, it’s legal to harvest, all of those types of things,” Dr. Brucken said.

The 2018 federal Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp containing .3% concentration of THC or less.

“These laws were written without understanding all of the other potential of this plant so that’s the reason why and how Delta-8 became legal in Indiana, because these bills, the law was not written against Delta-8, it was only written against Delta-9 thc because Delta-8 wasn’t very known of when the farm bill or the Indiana bill was written,” Jared Bell, owner of Bell Family Dispensary, said.

This means Delta-8 is legal in the state of Indiana, even though experts said it causes effects similar to marijuana and is not FDA regulated.

Dr. Brucken said frequent cannabis users typically describe Delta-8 as having a more “gentle high”.

“These products, there’s no jurisdiction for anyone to look at the manufacturing, look at the chemicals that are going into these products, everyone trying to enhance the effects. You can’t change the plant to make more but you can go through different types of manufacturing processing. They’re adding chemicals to it, they’re trying to enhance the effects of the Delta-8 THC that is present,” Dr. Brucken said.

Vigo County Sheriff John Plasse said the Sheriff’s Department doesn’t typically have a huge issue with marijuana, but he said the potential effects of Delta-8 are concerning.

“It’s legal to take the Delta-8 but it’s not legal to have marijuana in Indiana so I don’t know the thinking of legislators when they allow something that really has the same effect and really still there’s not a lot of research done or testing done to see any long term effects or short term effects for that matter,” Plasse said.

Bell ships CBD products to stores in Terre Haute and has a physical store in Bloomington.

He said his customers will buy Delta-8 for a variety of reasons.

“One of the biggest reasons our store and our consumers buy it is for of pain. It also has very similar anti-inflammatory properties as CBD does, but THC itself is a pain blocker so not only do you have that anti-inflammatory properties like CBD does, it also blocks pain,” Bell said.

Dr. Brucken said because the differences between Delta-8 THC and Delta-9 THC are so minimal, the health department is seeing people come in with alarming side effects such as hallucinations, vomiting, psychosis and irrational behavior related to Delta-8 use.

“The problem we’re getting into is it is causing some side effects and we don’t know the processes leading up to the product but they’re often put in edibles, put in gummies, they’re being put into things that are appealing to kids. We see a lot of poison control reports of people calling saying ‘My child got into my gummies.’ You know, they’re supposed to be safe because they’re just CBD but there are Delta-8 gummies that are being advertised out there,” Dr. Brucken said.

Dr. Bruckem said because of the similarities, it’s possible you could fail a drug test after taking Delta-8.

“The Delta-8/Delta-9 is in the position of a double bond basically and it’s literally just one atom shift over from the other so could there be some cross-reactivity with urine drug screens? Yeah, I wouldn’t see why there shouldn’t be,” Dr. Brucken said.

Plasse explained even though Delta-8 is legal, you would still suffer the same consequences if driving under the influence.

“Alcohol is legal to have as delta 8 is, but if you’re impaired or under the influence of that by using too much of it then you’re still not able to drive and you will be arrested for that,” Plasse said.

Dr. Brucken said he is not aware of any age requirements to purchase CBD in the state of Indiana. However, he said most vendors won’t sell to anyone under the age of 18, and some vendors require you to be 21.