Delta-8 is a weaker version of regular (delta-9) THC that can also get you high. The biggest reason for delta 8’s popularity is that it’s legal in many states where recreational cannabis is banned, such as Texas.
Delta-8 use is becoming widespread among veterans and active military personnel. Even though cannabis and hemp products are prohibited in the military, the Department of Defense (DOD) found that delta-8 THC is the second most common drug appearing on military drug tests after marijuana.
Members of the military use delta-8 for various reasons, including chronic pain management, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression, sleep issues, and recreational effects. In many cases, it’s used as a safer alternative to opioids and other prescription medications.
Here’s what you should know about delta-8 THC and its use by active and retired military personnel.
Table of Contents
What is Delta 8? Why is it Legal?
Delta-8 is structurally similar to delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis. It produces weaker but similar effects, such as euphoria, relaxation, and pain relief.
Unlike delta-9 THC, which is classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, delta-8 falls into a legal gray area. It’s all thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp.
By defining hemp as cannabis containing no more than 0.3% delta-9 THC, the bill created a loophole that made any amount of hemp-derived delta-8 THC legal.
Because hemp plants naturally contain low levels of delta-8 THC, manufacturers instead use a process called isomerization to turn pure CBD into delta-8. The resulting delta-8 THC is refined and used to make delta-8 vapes, edibles, oils, and other products.
Delta-8 THC products are trendy in states where recreational cannabis is illegal. Consequently, many states have chosen to ban or regulate it.
Having said that, delta-8 THC is 100% illegal in the military. On top of that, the DOD expanded military drug testing to include delta-8 THC in 2021. That means delta-8 THC shows up on drug tests for the army and other branches of the military.
Why Veterans and Active Military Are Turning to Delta-8 THC
Delta-8 THC is increasingly popular among veterans and military personnel. According to the 2021 DOD data, delta-9 THC (presumably from smoking cannabis) accounted for “73.4 percent of all unique drug positive active duty service members.” Delta-8 THC took second place with 42.7 percent.
Although some military personnel certainly use cannabis products for recreational effects, the biggest reason for their use is therapeutic.
Health Benefits of Delta-8 for Veterans
While research is still ongoing, user surveys suggest that some potential benefits that veterans might experience from Delta-8 THC include:
- Pain Relief: Delta-8 THC may help manage chronic pain, a common issue among veterans.
- Anxiety Reduction: Delta-8 may help with anxiety, which can be beneficial for veterans dealing with PTSD or other stress-related conditions.
- Improved Sleep: Delta-8 THC might help improve sleep quality, which can be beneficial for sleeping problems.
- Appetite Stimulation: Delta-8 THC can stimulate appetite, which can be helpful for people dealing with conditions that cause a loss of appetite.
- Nausea and Vomiting Reduction: Delta-8 THC may help reduce nausea and vomiting, which can be beneficial for veterans undergoing treatments that cause these side effects.
- Mood Enhancement: Some users report that Delta-8 THC can enhance mood, which can be beneficial for those dealing with depression.
While traditional medications can be effective, they often have unwanted side effects such as addiction, liver damage, and gastrointestinal problems. That’s especially true for opioids, which are highly addictive. Delta-8 THC offers an alternative that can help manage a variety of symptoms in a safer way.
Since delta-8 is legal in many states where cannabis is illegal or difficult to access, it’s not surprising that both active and retired military members are opting for delta-8 THC products instead. Another advantage of delta 8 is that it’s weaker and less likely to cause anxiety and other side effects associated with THC and cannabis. That’s great for people who are mainly looking for relief rather than getting high.
According to a 2021 survey, many people use delta-8 THC for medical conditions, including anxiety, panic attacks, stress, depression, bipolar disorder, and chronic pain. Many respondents also compared delta-8 favorably to, and substituted it for, delta-9 THC and pharmaceutical drugs.
Veterans Fighting to Keep Delta-8 Legal in Texas
The popularity of delta-8 among the military is highlighted by the struggle of veterans in Texas to prevent lawmakers like State Sen. Charles Perry from banning it.
Texas has the most veterans (about 1.4 million) out of any state. It’s also a state where recreational cannabis is illegal, and even medical use is restrictive. So it’s no surprise veterans are turning to delta-8 THC instead.
To fight against the ban, veterans and advocates have been testifying at public hearings and contacting lawmakers to express their support for delta-8 THC. They argue that the compound is safe and effective and provides a much-needed alternative to traditional prescription medications.
Many Texas veterans have come out in support of delta-8 THC. According to Mitch Fuller, national and state legislative chairman for the Texas branch of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW):
If eating a delta-8 gummy helps you manage your life, helps you function, helps you avoid a pharmaceutical fog, helps keep you gainfully employed, what is the harm in that? This is not an overly dramatic statement: Access to hemp-derived delta-8 saves lives, period.Mitch Fuller
One company in particular has played a major role in keeping delta-8 legal in Texas: Hometown Hero. Founded by friends Lukas Gilkey (a US Coast Guard veteran) and Lewis Hamer in 2018, the company led the fight to successfully block the state from making delta-8 THC a schedule 1 drug.
That’s why Hometown Hero is considered the best brand of delta-8 THC for veterans and regularly donates to veteran organizations.
The Need for Military Cannabis Reform
More and more states are legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use. But it remains prohibited for military members regardless of the laws of the state they’re stationed in.
There have been calls by some lawmakers to reconsider the military’s approach to marijuana use, particularly for medical purposes.
For example, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed by Congress in December 2022 came with a statement asking the military to explore the potential of “plant-based therapies” like cannabis and psychedelics for active personnel.
Meanwhile, the Air Force announced in 2022 that it would grant waivers to some applicants who tested positive for THC, allowing them to retest again in 90 days.
Both cannabis and delta-8 THC seem to offer many benefits for active military and especially veterans, who often struggle with difficult-to-treat, life-long issues following their service.
Even if the military is unwilling to recognize the medical benefits of THC, it may be forced to soften its stance on cannabis for a much simpler reason. The pool of candidates willing to join the army is dwindling, and marijuana use is one of the main barriers for applicants.
- Kruger, Jessica S., and Daniel J. Kruger. “Delta-8-THC: Delta-9-THC’s nicer younger sibling?.” Journal of cannabis research 4.1 (2022): 1-8.
- Kruger, Daniel J., and Jessica S. Kruger. “Consumer experiences with delta-8-THC: medical use, pharmaceutical substitution, and comparisons with delta-9-THC.” Cannabis and cannabinoid research 8.1 (2023): 166-173.
Gleb is a freelance writer from Vancouver, Canada specializing in CBD and cannabis. He’s read thousands of studies on CBD and other supplements, helping him translate complex science into plain language. Gleb has tried and reviewed dozens of CBD brands and products, written third-party testing reports, and knows the CBD industry inside and out. When not writing, he likes to kickbox, travel, and tell everyone how awesome intermittent fasting is.