Hemp-Derived Delta-8 Skirts Marijuana, Raises Legal and Health Concerns

Suzanne Kennedy smokes marijuana, and says her Wisconsin roots mean she can handle alcohol, so she wasn’t concerned earlier this year when a bartender in St. Paul, Minnesota, described a cocktail with the cannabinoid delta-8 THC as “a little bit” strong. .”

After hours of enjoying the delicious drink and the stupor that reminded Kennedy of a high from weed, he said, he began to feel “really shaky and faint” before collapsing in his friend’s arms. Kennedy regains consciousness and recovers, but his aversion to Delta-8 remains, even though the substance is legal at the federal level, unlike marijuana.

“I’m not really one to tell people what to do,” said Kennedy, 35, who lives in Milwaukee and works in software sales. But if a friend tries to order a Delta-8 drink, “I’ll tell them, ‘Absolutely not. You’re not putting that in your body.’

The FDA and some cannabis industry experts share Kennedy’s concerns. At least a dozen states have banned hemp-derived drugs, including Colorado, Montana, New York and Oregon, which has legalized marijuana. But Delta-8 makers call the concerns unfounded and say they are trying to protect their market share being driven by the cannabis business.

So what is the difference? The flowers of the cannabis plant, its oil, and foods made from them contain delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, a substance that produces high levels of the drug and can be legally sold only in dispensaries in states that have legalized marijuana. Similar products containing delta-8 THC are sold online and in bars and retailers in most parts of the United States, including some places where pot is illegal. That’s because a 2018 federal law legalized hemp, a variety of the marijuana plant. No more than 0.3% of the psychotropic delta-9 THC found in marijuana is allowed to break down.

Concerns about delta-8 mainly focus on how it is made. Delta-8 is typically made by dissolving CBD — a compound found in the cannabis plant — in solvents, such as toluene, which is often found in paint thinner. Some in the cannabis industry say the process leaves a potentially harmful residue. A study published last year in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology found lead, mercury and silicon in Delta-8 electronic cigarettes.

The FDA has issued warnings about the “serious health risks” of delta-8, citing concerns about the conversion process and more than 100 reports of people hallucinating, vomiting and losing consciousness, among other problems, after consuming it. From January 2021 to this February, National Poison Control Centers received more than 2,300 cases of Delta-8, 70% of which required evaluation in health care facilities, according to the FDA.

Dr. Peter Grinspoon, a primary care physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and a longtime medical marijuana purveyor, said Delta-8 is “an obvious solution for people who want access to marijuana but live in a state that doesn’t.” “You can either get into a lot of trouble buying marijuana, or you can get Delta-8.”

Greenspoon described Delta-8 as half as strong as marijuana. But due to the lack of research and the absence of controls on the potential benefits of delta-8, he does not recommend it to his patients. If it’s regulated like Massachusetts’ medical and recreational marijuana programs, he said, harmful contaminants could be flagged or removed.

Christopher Hudalla, chief scientific officer of Proverde Laboratories, a Massachusetts marijuana and hemp testing company, said he has tested thousands of Delta-8 products and found all of them contained contaminants that could be harmful to consumers’ health.

Delta-8 has “incredible potential as a therapeutic” because it has the same benefits as marijuana, minus some of the addiction, Hudalla said. “But Delta-8, like the Unicorn, doesn’t exist. What is in the market is an artificial mixture of unknown garbage.”

Justin Journe, owner of Delta-8 Brand 3 Chi, is skeptical of concerns about the products. He started the company in 2018 after hemp oil found relief for his shoulder pain. He soon began to wonder what other cannabinoids in hemp could do. “‘There must be some gold in that hill,'” Jarne thought to himself. He said his Indiana-based company now has more than 300 employees and sponsors a NASCAR team.

Asked about the FDA’s reports of adverse reactions, Journay said: “There are risks with THC. Absolutely have. There are risks with cheeseburgers.”

He attributed the side effects to overdosing. “We say, ‘Start low.’ You can always take more,” said Journe.

Journe said he understands the concern about contaminants in Delta-8 products and that his company is conducting tests to identify small amounts of substances that remain unknown, which he claims are cannabinoids from the plant.

An analysis of 3Chi Delta-8 oil conducted by Hudalla’s firm last year and posted on 3Chi’s website found multiple unidentified compounds that “do not occur naturally” and thus “would not be recommended for human consumption.” Delta-8 oil is still sold on 3Chi’s site.

Journe said the analysis showed that only 0.4% of the oil contained unknown compounds. “How can they say for sure that the compound is not natural when they don’t even know what it is?” he said in an email.

“The vast majority of negative information out there and the push to make Delta-8 illegal is coming from the marijuana industry,” Journe said. “It’s cutting into their profit margins, which is funny that the marijuana guys would suddenly be for prohibition.”

Delta-8 products appear to be significantly cheaper than weed. For example, Cureleaf, one of the world’s largest marijuana companies, pays a Massachusetts dispensary $25 in sales tax on 100 milligrams of delta-9 THC. At 3Chi, gum with 400 mg of Delta-8 costs $29.99 online, no tax.

The Journal’s criticism of the marijuana industry contains some truth, said Chris Lindsey, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates legalizing marijuana for adults. “We see this happening in every adult-use legalization state,” Lindsey said. “Their established medical marijuana industry will sometimes be your loudest opponent, and that’s a business thing. It’s not a marijuana thing.”

Still, sanctions may not work perfectly. In New York, which banned Delta-8 in 2021, Lindsey said, it’s available at any bodega.

In July, Minnesota implemented a law that limits the amount of THC, including delta-8, allowed in hemp products outside of its medical marijuana program. News reports said the legislation would wipe out Delta-8. But the state “can’t control what’s being sold and shipped on the Internet outside of Minnesota,” said Maren Schroeder, policy director for Sensible Change Minnesota, which aims to legalize recreational marijuana for adults.

Max Barber, a writer and editor in Minneapolis, is interested in Delta-8 despite his state’s restrictions. Although he could probably get a medical marijuana prescription because he has an anxiety disorder and chronic sleep problems, he didn’t follow it because the pot made his anxiety worse. He used CBD oil but found the effects inconsistent. In March 2021, he tried a 10-milligram delta-8 gum.

“It got me pretty high, which I don’t enjoy,” he said.

Then he found what he considered the right dose for him: one-third of an eighth, which he took in the evening. He said he now sleeps six to eight hours per night, has less anxiety and is better able to focus. “I’ve become an evangelist for Delta-8 to everyone I know who has sleep problems,” said Barber, who bought enough gummies to last him for months after the new law went into effect.

To address concerns about Delta-8, the federal government should regulate it and make it easier for consumers to access marijuana, said Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Association for Marijuana Law Reform.

He pointed to recent research in the International Journal of Drug Policy showing that Google searches for delta-8 increased in the United States in 2021, and that interest was particularly high in states that restrict the use of marijuana. “In an environment where whole-plant cannabis is legally available, there will be little demand for these alternative products,” Armentano said.

Lindsey of the Marijuana Policy Project isn’t so sure it matters. When he first learned of Delta-8’s growing popularity in 2021, he thought it would go the way of drugs like K2 or Spice, which he said fall under regulatory rules long enough to get on the shelves before eventually being shut down.

“It didn’t materialize,” Lindsay said. “The more we understand about that plant, the more these different cannabinoids are going to come out.” And that, he says, will spur interest from consumers and businesses

Related topics

Contact us Submit a story tip

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.