One of the biggest threats currently facing Cody students is Delta 8 and other smokable hemp products. These products have put multiple students in the emergency room this school year.
This was the message the Cody High School Youth for Justice organization and its coordinator Deb White, School Resource Officer Jason Potter and CHS Vice Principal Beth Blatt delivered to the Cody City Council at its Jan. 10 work session.
“I just want to talk about the seriousness of what we’re dealing with,” Potter said at the work session. “Me and Mrs. Blatt have sent five kids to the ER because of this.
“We had one kid today who was 90 pounds and couldn’t breathe. We couldn’t wake him up.”
Blatt said in her time as vice principal, she has never seen this.
“This is my seventh year, and I’ve never sent anyone to the emergency room, let alone five or six kids because their vitals were so low and they were incoherent,” she said.
Delta 8 is a psychoactive substance found in the cannabis plant, from which marijuana and hemp are derived.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, from December 2020 through February 2022, the FDA has received numerous adverse reports from consumers regarding Delta 8.
Some of those adverse effects included hospitalizations, vomiting, hallucinations, trouble standing and loss of consciousness. Delta 8 has also been reported as giving consumers a “high,” according to the FDA.
Potter said it is that “high” that attracts students to Delta 8.
“It’s almost the same buzz as smoking marijuana,” he told the council.
The product has not been evaluated or approved by the FDA for safe use in any context, the FDA website said.
In response to this issue, several members of the Youth for Justice organization asked city council to create an ordinance that would ban the sale of smokable hemp products to anyone under the age of 21 in Cody.
But, according to city attorney Scott Kolpitcke, before the council can make such an ordinance, it has to wait on state legislation.
“We’ve got a state statute that went into effect a few years ago that specifically said it is permissible to possess, use, sell and distribute hemp and hemp-related products,” he told the council. “And that’s why the city cannot adopt anything at this point. We have to wait for state legislation.”
White said she understood they would have to wait on state legislation, but explained that her group is working with Rep. Sandy Newsome, R-Cody, to get legislation passed.
“Her bill would address the sale of modified hemp products that are smokeable for anyone under the age of 21,” White said. “Two years ago, we tried to get a bill passed that basically made smoking hemp illegal if you’re under 21, and there was no real driving force at that time [but] there weren’t kids going to the hospital.”
To her, Delta 8 is a more pressing issue.
“This one seems way more dangerous than any of the other stuff,” White said.
On behalf of CHS Youth for Justice, she asked the city council to do two things: pass a city ordinance on the issue once state legislation is passed and relay their support for state legislation to legislators.
“It would be super helpful if you all would request our other representatives and legislative members to support this bill,” White said.
If the students of Youth for Justice have their way, they would like the city to eventually implement fines for those who sell smokable hemp products to people under 21.
During the school year, Blatt said she has spent a lot of time confiscating smokable hemp products from students. She said they have easy access to the products.
“We have two shops within walking distance [of the high school],” Blatt said. “Our 14- to 15-year-olds up to our 18-year-olds can go out at lunch and go buy these products, smoke them and then come back.”
Blatt explained these hemp products come in various forms from jerky to gum to vape pens to Delta 8 products.
“This could be our full-time job at the high school right now,” Potter said. “This is out of control.”
CHS has implemented a few solutions to help the issue — one being the installation of vape sensors to detect if students are carrying vape pens.
“We are catching students that way,” Blatt said.
Another solution is education.
“With a first offense, we try to educate the kids instead of sending them in front of a judge,” Potter said. “The only thing with this new Delta 8 is they’re going to the ER so it’s more serious.”
Potter added that the education aspect needs to extend beyond students.
“We really need to get out to the community and really educate them and parents,” he said.
Mayor Matt Hall said the council would work to support state legislation on the issue.
“We’ll definitely check into this and maybe we can get some push on this as well. It certainly seems worthwhile,” he said.
Council member Lee Ann Reiter expressed her support as well.
“Thank you students for being here and helping your fellow students. What you are doing might save somebody’s life,” she said. “[But] we need to stay ahead of this because if we don’t stop it here, it’s going to be showing up everywhere.”
Blatt confirmed that other schools in the state are dealing with similar issues.
According to World Population Review, 15 states have banned the use of Delta 8 while seven other states have regulated its use. Delta 8 is currently unregulated in Wyoming.
For more information on Delta 8, visit www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/5-things-know-about-delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol-delta-8-thc.