It’s time to regulate intoxicating hemp products

by | May 31, 2024

I want to share our family’s terrifying story around Delta-8 THC, the unregulated kind of THC that is sold in corner stores seemingly everywhere in Florida.

Our son is a senior, dual-sport honor roll student who has always been an upbeat, happy kid even throughout his teen years.  Then something changed. Unbeknownst to us, he had begun using a variety of Delta-8 products from a local shop here in Tallahassee.

We were on an 18th birthday fishing trip to the everglades when the first signs of a mental break began. He decided to use several products including gummies and vapes before we left and then go cold turkey while on our trip since he would not be able to use around us. While driving down to the everglades he slept the entire way and when he woke up it was like he was seeing everything around him for the first time. We assumed he was just excited about fishing. Then slowly something seemed off. He didn’t sound like himself. He wanted to have in-depth heart to heart conversations about things that did not make sense. He started recalling events incorrectly and getting frustrated when we would correct him or tell him something never happened. Then after an hours-long conversations it would start completely over like we were stuck in a time loop.  This continued to happen until we got back home where he engaged in the same irrational conversations with other family members.  He was obviously struggling with reality and becoming agitated. We knew something was very wrong and questioned him about using drugs. He finally admitted the Delta-8 use before the trip. We were unfamiliar with Delta 8 and assumed it was basic marijuana and that he would eventually sober up.  We were wrong. Then things got worse.

He kept wanting to have us sit down and listen to strange thoughts he was having. We thought he was high. He finally admitted to using the Delta 8 again the day before to help him “sleep”.  We told him it was time to seek professional help. He became hysterical and then threatened suicide. He ran outside and we pleaded with him to go to the hospital. He refused and then called 911 himself. The sheriff deputy arrived and did his best to console our son and understand the situation.  Watching our son stand in our yard in nothing but his boxer shorts, screaming, shaking, hyper ventilating, tears streaming down his face was a feeling of helplessness we have never experienced.  When we told the sheriff about his use of Delta-8 THC, we were shocked to learn that these products are not regulated and there is no law preventing the selling of these substances at gas stations and smoke shops.  He also commented that it’s very difficult to enforce sales to underage kids.

As a father of four children, I have talked with them all about illicit drugs and alcohol and the harm it could do to their developing brains and bodies.  It never once occurred to us that there was a substance out there that is so easily accessible and so dangerous. It is important that everyone understands the harm this could do and the risk of what they are purchasing.  These specific gummies and vapes contain harmful unregulated chemicals without dosing instructions. These products are made all over without proper procedure or list of what they truly contain. Some research has shown they contain many toxins not for human consumption.

This experience has traumatized our family and will have lasting emotional and physical damage for our son. I hope that by sharing our story others learn about the dangers of gas station weed and other unregulated drugs sold in stores across our state.

In light of this and our personal experience we are calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to please – PLEASE – sign Senate Bill 1698, a bill that will add regulations, money for law enforcement to fight intoxicating hemp, and most importantly will help protect young adults like my son from the ravages of these dangerous intoxicating substances.

This article is an Op-Ed


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