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EXCLUSIVE: Businesses selling Delta-8 THC products raided by police sparks lawsuit

Lawsuit filed against Gwinnett County
Published: Mar. 11, 2022 at 11:15 AM EST
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GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. (CBS46) - Exclusive video obtained by CBS46 shows members of a multi-agency task force raiding Element Distribution, a vaping and smoke distribution center, looking for Delta-8 THC products, which up until recently many in the state thought was a legal practice.

“From what I’ve seen and known in the past that it was legal, at least federally, and that certain levels of THC was legal,” said Shakinah McNeil, a vape store employee in Gwinnett County.

The products give users a very similar high to the one obtained by taking marijuana.

The Georgia Hemp Farming act passed in 2019 says products derived from hemp carrying no more than 0.3% Delta-9 THC can be sold legally.

It doesn’t mention Delta-8 products so many have thought them to be legal.

The Gwinnett County DA said it is illegal under the Hemp act and said some Delta-8 products have caused a number of children to have psychotic episodes.

“The issue is that Delta-8 and Delta-10 are not always derivatives of hemp products and even if they are derivatives of hemp products, the legislature was very specific that hemp is defined as something that contains Delta-9 THC 0.3 or less,” said Brandon Delfunt, Gwinnett County Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney.

The issue of whether it is legal or not sparking a lawsuit against the Gwinnett DA by retail sellers.

“I don’t believe it is gray. The hemp bill basically legalized all cannabinoids, all extracts, unless we’re talking about Delta-9 THC,” said Tom Church, a trial attorney with Pate, Johnson & Church who is representing the retailers.

Those in the business are hoping the lawsuit will bring clarity as the Delta-8 products make up well over half their profits.

“So far, it’s hurt our bottom line and we’re trying to adjust but most of our sale were coming from the Delta-8 products,” McNeil said.

Element distribution said around $2 million dollars worth of product was seized from them and no one was arrested when the raid took place on Feb. 22, and charges still haven’t been brought against them. They said they have always run their business legitimately and continue to do so. The owners tell CBS46 they have been paying taxes to the county on the very same products that were seized.

The DA’s office said it had talks with businesses before their announcement to begin prosecuting people selling Delta-8 THC products, and continues to do so around the legislation.

The Gwinnett County Police Department sent the following statement:

Atlanta media outlets have recently reported about police officers raiding Gwinnett County vape shops that sell Delta-8 THC products. The Gwinnett County Police Department (GCPD) has not been involved in any of these raids. The County is aware of a pending lawsuit regarding Delta-8 products and the GCPD is evaluating the law as it relates to Delta-8 to determine what potential future enforcement measures may or may not be required.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The original story stated that it was “Gwinnett County officers” who raided the shop. We now know that it was a multi-agency task force and Gwinnett County Police Department was not involved.