The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday, September 14, issued a warning to cannabis users about the potential risks of the cannabinoid delta-8 THC, a psychoactive compound that has grown in popularity but exists in an especially grey regulatory space. While lawmakers have specified that hemp is only federally legal if it contains no more than 0.3 percent delta-9 THC, the most commonly known and naturally occurring cannabinoid, there’s generally a lack of rules governing delta-8 THC, which can be synthesized using CBD from legal hemp. FDA and CDC have taken notice of the growing availability and demand for delta-8 THC, which is being sold in states regardless of whether they’ve legalized cannabis. And the agencies say they’re seeing a significant uptick in reported adverse health effects from people who are using it.
The FDA gave a statement saying, “It is important for consumers to be aware that delta-8 THC products have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA for safe use in any context.” They continued, “They may be marketed in ways that put the public health at risk and should especially be kept out of reach of children and pets.” The agency said some delta-8 products are being labeled as “hemp,” which could mislead consumers who are seeking non-intoxicating cannabinoids from the plant. From December 2020 to July 2021, FDA said it has logged 22 adverse events reports from people who’ve experience symptoms such as “vomiting, hallucinations, trouble standing, and loss of consciousness.”
The organization said, “The FDA is also concerned that delta-8 THC products likely expose consumers to much higher levels of the substance than are naturally occurring in hemp cannabis raw extracts.” They continued, “Thus, historical use of cannabis cannot be relied upon in establishing a level of safety for these products in humans.” There are further concerns that the chemical process of synthesizing delta-8 THC from CBD could lead to contaminated products. Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment that the rise of delta-8 THC is a result of cannabis policy conflicts that have left gaps in access to traditional cannabis products.
He said, “We share some of these agencies’ concerns regarding the unregulated nature of these grey-market products. Of course, the artificial market demand for these products is largely an outgrowth of marijuana prohibition.” He concluded, “Were whole-plant cannabis available legally, consumers would have little to no interest in experimenting with these unregulated imitations. But, absent widespread regulated access to cannabis, these unregulated producers and distributors are all too happy to fill this void.” This ordeal is a clear sign that not only do we need to study cannabis more closely, there also needs to be more efforts to have legalization across the board.