Delta-8 THC Use Is Growing Among Active Military and Veterans

By | last updated April 14, 2023

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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. 

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.

Why Veterans and Active Military Are Turning to Delta-8 THC

Delta-8 THC has become increasingly popular among members of the military. 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.

Veterans also widely use cannabis and delta-8 as an alternative to prescription medications, which don’t always work and can have serious side effects.

Although some (especially active personnel) certainly use cannabis products for recreational effects, the biggest reason for their use is therapeutic.

As you’re probably aware, veterans and active military members often experience physical and mental health issues that arise from the rigors of military service, including combat exposure, physical injuries, and high stress levels. These can include chronic pain, PTSD, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. 

While traditional medications can be effective, they often have unwanted side effects such as addiction, liver damage, and gastrointestinal problems. Delta-8 THC offers an alternative that may help manage these symptoms without the harsh side effects.

Since delta-8 is legal in many states where cannabis is illegal or difficult to access, it’s not surprising that 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 delta-8 THC in the state. 

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

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. 

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