Survey research mines delta-8 usage in Nebraska

by Deann Gayman | University Communication and Marketing

Rows of hemp are grown on a farm.
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Hemp is now grown by agricultural producers for its fibers, but the new crop has also given rise to cannabinoid products known as Delta 8.
April 10, 2024

Welcome to Pocket Science: a glimpse at recent research from Husker scientists and engineers. For those who want to quickly learn the “What,” “So what” and “Now what” of Husker research.


The 2018 Farm Bill authorized the production of hemp with 0.3% or less delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol— the psychoactive chemical in marijuana — and removed the plant and its seeds from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of controlled substances.

The move opened up a new fiber crop for agricultural producers, but the legislation also created a loophole. By omission, federal law inadvertently allowed the production of delta-8 THC cannabinoid products and other derived psychoactive cannabinoid products. Since cannabis products made from delta-9 THC are highly regulated, even in states where cannabis is legal, the delta-8 loophole has allowed unregulated and often, untested, delta-8 products to proliferate in markets, even where marijuana use is illegal, including in Nebraska.

So what?

Little is known about the prevalence of delta-8, and to further understand its foothold in the state, researchers at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Rural Drug Addiction Research Center partnered with the Nebraska Annual Social Indicators Survey to explore residents’ delta-8 and cannabis usage.

In the survey completed in late 2023, they found that usage is low — 8.86% among Nebraska adults — but that certain factors raised the odds of delta-8 usage. Younger adults are more likely to use it. For each one-year increase in age, the odds of delta-8 usage go down 6.7%. Substance use is also a predictor of delta-8 usage, with those who smoked cigarettes in the past six months being 152.1% more likely to have used delta-8, and people who reported any illicit substance use in their lifetimes being 292.9% more likely to have used delta-8 products. And Nebraskans who said they would likely use cannabis if it became medically legal were 551.9% more likely to have used delta-8. Income, gender and rurality did not seem associated with higher or lower likelihood of delta-8 usage.

Now what?

Since younger adults and previous use of legal and illicit substances, including cigarettes, increases the likelihood of delta-8 usage, the researchers suggest that Nebraskans consider the impact of marketing efforts that target younger consumers. Additionally, the health risks and side effects associated with delta-8 products may increase the health disparities seen among minoritized populations, since non-white Nebraskans were more likely to use delta-8.

Overall, the study noted a lack of research surrounding delta-8 THC products and individuals’ use of them but found that factors associated with usage differ from overall cannabis use. As governmental policy regarding cannabis products changes at the state and federal level, research into patterns of use remains important.

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