Local Cannabiz Hometown Hero Fought Delta-8 Ban and Won
“Hemp and cannabis industries here in Texas have never had a brighter future”
Many consumers' first encounter with the term "Delta-8 THC" came from a February 2021 New York Times article about an Austin-based cannabusiness, Hometown Hero. Founded in 2015 by U.S. Coast Guard veteran Lukas Gilkey, the manufacturer and distributor of Delta-8 THC, CBD, and eJuice focuses on high-quality products and active donations to the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization. They've also been at the forefront of the fight against the Delta-8 THC ban in Texas.
Gilkey and company teamed up with other Delta-8 vendors and the Texas Hemp Federation to stop House Bill 3948 in the 2021 Texas legislative session. If it had passed, HB 3948 would have made Delta-8 THC – a hemp-derived cannabinoid that was made legal through the 2018 Farm Bill – illegal. (This cannabinoid is psychoactive like its more well-known counterpart, Delta-9 THC, and unlike the popular CBD.) After an agreement could not be reached on amendments between the House and Senate versions of HB 3948, the bill died.
"Despite being a very young industry, we proved that the Delta-8 industry is capable of fighting overreaching and unnecessary cannabis regulation," said Gilkey.
Austin Chronicle: What's your origin story into the cannabiz? Was there a specific life event, philosophy, or career trajectory that propelled you into the space?
Lukas Gilkey: We have a great [YouTube] video that does a deep dive into the background on launching the company here. We started very small; in the early days of Hometown Hero, I was selling e-liquid to vapor shops as a cigarette alternative out of my car, but have now found myself the CEO of a rapidly growing developer and distributor of CBD and Delta-8 products.
In terms of what was happening in the cannabis space that led us to sell THC products, it was the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized widespread hemp farming and distribution, specifically allowing the sale of most of the plant's byproducts. Delta-8 THC is legally permitted under the latest Farm Bill, as it does not fit the definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act and is derived from the legal hemp plant.
While we have been around since 2015 selling other products, we began offering Delta-8 THC following this legislation's passing and are excited to be one of the leading sellers of this trending product.
We currently only ship to the 38 states that allow the sale of Delta-8 THC products and always stay up to date on any regulation changes to ensure we're adhering accordingly. Since our industry is continually evolving, we work closely with our legal experts to ensure we are up to date on the legislation once new regulations come into play and before laws are changed. This strategy allows us to remain agile and competitive as a business. Currently, we are not concerned about Delta-8 THC being made illegal as the current presidential administration is focused on legalizing marijuana.
AC: Specifically regarding Delta-8 THC, tell us in your words what consumers can expect from the gummies. How is it experientially different from CBD and THC (Delta-9)? Are there differences in your Delta-8 products compared to others in the space?
LG: Our customers describe their Delta-8 experience as a relaxing body sensation with a mild euphoric feeling but without the heady and potentially overwhelming side effects of Delta-9 THC (found in marijuana). The most significant difference between Delta-8 THC and CBD for a consumer is the impact seen when consumed. CBD has a much more subtle effect on the body, where Delta-8 THC provides a more visceral and profound uplifting feeling. While substantial amounts of CBD are typically recommended to see any effects, Delta-8 can be used in small, single doses to see the benefits immediately.
The most significant difference between our products and our competitors' is that we use Delta-8 THC extracted naturally from hemp. Most of the Delta-8 THC on the market is made by converting CBD into Delta-8 THC. With Hometown Hero products, we use the Delta-8 THC that is naturally occurring in legal hemp. By doing so, it gives our end-user the highest quality product available.
We also impose strict quality standards on all of our products. We're in the process of having all of our products tested using a DEA-certified laboratory, which will give us the most robust lab tests in the entire industry. Finding and working with a DEA-certified lab was much more difficult than we anticipated, but within the next few weeks, we'll be the first Delta-8 THC company with these types of tests.
AC: How would a prohibition on Delta-8 affect Hometown Hero's business? What would it mean (to you) about the overall state of cannabis in Texas (and across the U.S.)?
LG: We have always worked closely with our lawyers to ensure we adhere to current legislation and know what changes could be coming down the pipeline. Because of this, we were able to see the Texas Delta-8 THC legislation coming and worked with the Texas Hemp Federation and others in our industry to head this off.
We're very proud of our industry's work in Texas in preventing the ban on this beneficial cannabinoid that is helping so many in our great state. Texas has traditionally been a very conservative state when it comes to cannabis. With the most recent legislative session results, the hemp and cannabis industries here in Texas have never had a brighter future.
AC: Tell me about Hometown Hero's veteran support program.
LG: As a Coast Guard veteran, donating to the men and women who serve our country is extremely important to my team and me. Every year, Hometown Hero donates a portion of our profits to charities that benefit veterans. This past year has been especially challenging on veterans across the U.S. Many of them have preexisting conditions attributed to COVID-19 fatalities and have a hard time getting the proper care they need (a lot of veterans find relief while using our products as well). In 2020, we donated $25,000 to the Texas VFW and Disabled American Veterans.
With the recent company growth due to the popularity of Delta-8 THC, we were able to make an impromptu $10,000 donation to Soldiers' Angels out of San Antonio, Texas, in March 2021. It is our goal to donate more money to veterans charities this year than we ever have.
AC: What else would you like our readers to know about Delta-8, cannabusiness, or Hometown Hero?
LG: Hometown Hero's Delta-8 products are 100% naturally extracted from hemp that is not degraded in any way. When produced, the products are registered with state agencies to ensure proper safety measures are implemented. This is something we pride ourselves on and something very few, if any, other Delta-8 companies can claim.
Our most popular products are the Delta-8 gummies and Delta-8 joints, and we're scaling very quickly; after the New York Times article came out, we did an entire year's worth of growth in just a few days. This has enabled us to donate more than ever to veterans charities and fight for our industry legislatively.