NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Recreational and medical cannabis are illegal in Tennessee, but people are still getting legally high.

In the last few years, the THC market has expanded, with products containing Delta-8 and Delta-10 growing in popularity.

They’re sometimes called “diet weed” or “weed lite.”

“Delta-8 [is] about 70% as potent as Delta-9,” LabCanna CEO Derek Besenius said last year. “Then Delta-10 leans more toward the energy, creative, focus side of things.”

All three have a chemical formula and something called a “double bond.”

Delta-9 THC is the compound that makes you feel ‘high.’ Its double bond is on the ninth carbon chain of its compound. Delta-8’s THC is on the eighth carbon chain, and Delta-10’s is on the 10th. These still create a psychoactive effect, but it’s less intense than Delta-9.

Similarly to cannabis, many believe they have some sort of mental and physical healing properties, which is what led Devin Aracena to the industry. “Just the passion for the plant and seeing how much power the plant has and can support people,” she said.

Aracena is the co-founder and CEO of CANVAST Supply Co., a hemp company in Nashville. She’s been in the hemp industry for nearly half a decade and the cannabis industry for another half.

Since she’s been in Tennessee, the Delta compounds have had virtually no regulation as companies grew and produced them. But now, Gov. Bill Lee (R-Tennessee) just signed off on legislation to change that.

“Delta-8’s been completely unregulated up to this point, and what the bill is trying to do is trying to assure the public and the consumer that the product they’re buying is what it says it is, that it doesn’t have contaminants,” Sen. Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville) said. “We’re not going to sell it to people under 21 years of age.”

Briggs sponsored the bill in the Senate.

As the law currently stands, there’s no real checkpoint for making sure the product is clean and potent. The bill will essentially set parameters around inspection and packaging.

Companies will have to undergo testing from a third-party lab and put their product in child-resistant packaging.

“Basic food-grade things,” Aracena said. “The same standard you would want to see your packaged food in a grocery store be held to, we’re going to hold these products to it, as well.”

Now, you might think this would frustrate hemp companies. But actually, for most, it’s the exact opposite.

“I consider it a big win for the state,” Aracena said.

In fact, Aracena, along with Cultivate Tennessee, a coalition of cannabis and hemp-promoting businesses and professionals, helped draft the legislation. It originally started as a complete ban on the Delta compounds before she and other hemp companies came in.

“We started off to where we have one side that says, ‘Let’s do nothing.’ You have the other side that says to ban it,” Briggs said. “By working together, we were able to meet in the middle.”

Cannabis is still illegal in Tennessee, and Aracena pointed out the regulations wouldn’t be necessary if the state just legalized it. But either way, she’ll be prepared. “We’ll always find a way to get the plant to the people.”

To pay for the regulation, this upcoming law brings in a 6% tax on all hemp-derived products. So, if you don’t use Delta-8, 9, or 10, you won’t see any difference. If you do, expect to pay just a little more at checkout.

The tax goes into effect July 1st, while the regulations start in July of 2024.