Is Delta 8-THC Legal in California? (Mar. 2023 Update)

By | Updated on April 11, 2023

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Delta-8-THC is restricted in California. It’s not clear if it’s illegal or regulated like regular cannabis but the law prohibits the sale or distribution of hemp-derived products with more than 0.3% THC. Here’s the lowdown on the murky status of delta-8 in the Golden State.


Delta-8 THC is either illegal or regulated in California, the laws are not 100% clear. Despite this, people report being able to buy delta-8 products in smoke shops.

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California Delta 8 THC Laws

On October 6, 2021, Bill AB-45 was signed into law by California Governor Newsom. The bill legalized the use of CBD in dietary supplements, foods, beverages, and cosmetics. It was a big win for CBD companies.

But the bill also appears to close the loophole that made hemp-derived delta-8 THC legal. First, the bill redefined THC to include delta-8 and other forms of THC:

Any tetrahydrocannabinol, including, but not limited to, Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, and Delta-10-tetrahydrocannabinol, however derived, except that the department may exclude one or more isomers of tetrahydrocannabinol from this definition under subdivision.

California AB-45

This suggests that California wants to regulate delta-8 THC the same way as regular delta-9 THC and recreational cannabis, which means it will only be available from licensed dispensaries.

The bill also states that:

An industrial hemp product shall not be distributed or sold in the state except in conformity with all applicable state laws and regulations, including this chapter and any regulations promulgated thereunder, and with documentation that includes both of the following:

(a) A certificate of analysis from an independent testing laboratory that confirms both of the following:

(1) The industrial hemp raw extract, in its final form, does not exceed THC concentration of an amount determined allowable by the department in regulation, or the mass of the industrial hemp extract used in the final form product does not exceed a THC concentration of 0.3 percent.

California AB-45

In other words, hemp products can only be sold in California if they contain no more than 0.3% of any form of THC (or an amount determined by the state’s regulatory bodies). This essentially makes hemp-derived delta-8 THC products illegal.

It’s not clear if California intends to ban delta-8 completely or only allow its sale in licensed dispensaries.

But there was a story from February 2022 about police busting a delta-8 vendor in Ocean Beach, California. The police stated that “In this case the seller tried to argue the aspects of delta 8, even though AB45 literally names delta8 as illegal in California.”

Still, we’ve heard reports as recent as January 2023 that you can still find and buy delta-8 products in California smoke shops, even if many online brands have stopped shipping to the state.

What is Delta 8 THC?

Delta-8-THC stands for delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol. It’s a type of THC, the intoxicating compound in cannabis.

Delta-8 is a minor cannabinoid. It gets produced naturally in cannabis plants but only in trace amounts. This is why D8 is synthesized from hemp-derived CBD instead.

Delta-8-THC is similar to delta-9 THC. They have similar effects because their molecular structure is almost identical. That means delta-8 can get you high, cause euphoria, and other effects typically associated with THC and cannabis (1).

But delta-8 is only about 66% as strong as delta-9 THC, so it’s less likely to cause side effects.

Why Delta 8 THC is Federally Legal

Delta-8-THC is federally legal because of a loophole. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp and hemp-derived products, restricting them to no more than 0.3% delta-9 THC.

But the bill doesn’t say anything about delta-8 THC. Since it’s possible to make delta-8 from hemp-derived CBD, that effectively makes it legal.

States Where Delta-8 THC is Illegal

Each state can choose to make its own laws regarding delta-8-THC. Having effects similar to regular delta-9 THC is why some states are choosing to ban or regulate Delta 8.

Delta-8 THC is currently illegal in 17 states: Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.

The Future of Delta 8 THC in California

For now, it looks like hemp-derived delta-8 products are illegal or regulated in California, even though you can still buy them in unlicensed smoke shops.

Whatever the case, I expect to see clarification from the state government that will hopefully clear up the situation.

I think the state wants to regulate delta-8 under its existing framework for adult-use cannabis. That would mean you’ll only be able to buy delta-8 products from a licensed dispensary. But we’ll have to wait for official statements.

2 thoughts on “Is Delta 8-THC Legal in California? (Mar. 2023 Update)”

  1. I’m getting word from beer distributers that delta-8 thc drinks are legal for retailers to sell in CA. Has anything changed with the new year?


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