Lauren Castillo has diabetes, scoliosis, nerve damage and polycystic ovary syndrome.
She is prescribed multiple medicines including morphine and hydrocodone, but prefers cannabis products that reduce her pain aside from her necessary medications.
She said Delta-8 THC products, such as gummies and CBD cigarettes, have significantly helped her do all the things she could not before, like spending time with her nieces and nephews.
“If I was in a lot of pain, my husband would help get me to the hospital to get a shot of steroids just to move around,” Castillo said. “Now I know I have backup, as in if I overdo it, I’m good. I won’t have to go back to another hospital for a steroid shot and I’ll be there for several hours. This is the next best thing.”
A state bill which would outlaw certain cannabis products died last weekend, and local smoke shops and THC users are celebrating.
House Bill 2593 contained a provision outlawing Delta-8, a cannabis compound made from hemp that is similar but less potent compared to THC. Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, added the provision as the bill went through amendments in the Senate.
The House conference committee removed this provision and approved the compromised version 95-44 but the Senate did not take a final vote.
Sean Timmermann, owner of Gruene Botanicals, said many of his customers who use Delta-8 include those with cancer, PTSD and joint pain.
“There were a lot of people that were heartbroken thinking something that was helping them was about to be taken from them through the legislature,” Timmermann said. “People come in here and find relief. This stuff changes people’s lives, it changes their day-to-day.”
What is Delta-8?
Delta-8 is legal in Texas and a form of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound that gives marijuana psychoactive effects.
The THC in marijuana is Delta-9 THC which gets users high — whereas Delta-8 occurs naturally in hemp. Hemp is a variety of the cannabis plant used in CBD products that only contain small amounts of THC.
Delta-8 comes in products such as gummies, flowers and creams.
Timmermann said Delta-8 has effects that are calming and aid customers with pain or sleep problems.
“Delta-8 is going to be what I would consider, heavy on the body and more indica-like,” Timmermann said. “What I found was people dealing with body pain find relief from Delta-8 which then has a sativa effect for them because they’re feeling better so they want to do something.”
Kimberly Ashley-Stevens, 53, has cancer and said Delta-8 has helped ease her pain from chemo treatment. She manages a Sonic restaurant in Cibolo, and said she applies THC cream when she gets sore from lifting heavy things due to fibromyalgia.
“Delta-8 seems to provide the longest-term pain control of anything,” Ashley-Stevens said. “When I was going through chemo, I had bone pain way down deep in the middle of the bones. I don’t like medicine, so having it like candy makes it a lot easier to talk myself into taking.”
Veteran Bridgette Simon, 32, said she uses Delta-8 products to help her sleep due anxiety and PTSD. At first she was wary about using anything stemming from marijuana, but her sleep significantly improved after she took some gummies.
“It had that stigma behind it and I was like ‘No, I’m not about that,’” Simon said. “I can’t turn my brain off at night to actually go to sleep, so [Delta-8] gives me that sleepy feeling but also it relaxes me enough where I stop thinking about my to-do list or what I need to get done.”
She earned a bachelor’s degree in substance abuse counseling, and said she found in her experience and studies that THC is much safer than other mechanisms such as alcohol or pain medications, which are addicting.
“Learning more about how it tends to be safer than alcohol and stuff, I was like I thought we were making progress of it and the acceptance of it and stuff,” Simon said.
Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, filed HB 2593 which would have lowered the penalty for possession of less than 2 ounces of THC extracts from a felony charge to a Class B misdemeanor.
Castillo said she wished that passed, and that marijuana overall should be legalized, especially since her husband has a drug felony.
“My husband has a drug felony from 14 years ago,” Castillo said. “Today up until 14 years ago, he’s done a 360 turn, and nobody lets that drug charge down.”
The federal 2018 Farm Bill legalized commercial production of hemp, and in 2019 a Texas House bill authorized the production, manufacturing, retail sales and inspection of industrial hemp products and crops.
One marijuana-related bill reached Abbott’s desk before session ended Monday.
House Bill 1535 passed unanimously and would expand the state’s medical marijuana program, the Compassionate-Use Program.
It would make cancer patients and those with PTSD eligible for marijuana treatment. Timmermann said it’s a start, but the medical marijuana is at such a low potency he feels it does not help people enough.
“The medical program in Texas, in my opinion, is a joke,” Timmermann said. “My opinion is not enough to cure cancer and deal with illnesses that some of this stuff can really help with.”
Timmermann said Texas has a long way to go with cannabis and marijuana policies, but is happy people can keep using Delta-8 to improve their lives.
“I think [marijuana legislation] is going to kind of stall, at least six months to two years, like there isn’t going to be any more noise about it,” Timmermann said. “But the industry isn’t going to just stop at Delta-8, the industry is going to continue research and do its part to help people. I truly believe that.”