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US States Need More Delta-8 Regulations, Researchers Argue

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Nov 08, 2022   
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For the past couple of years, THC has had a bit of a rival: delta-8 THC. The latter is said to produce milder highs than its better-known cousin (which is formally known as delta-9 THC).

But what it lacks in potency, delta-8 more than makes up for in ubiquity. As the THC variant can be produced from federally legal CBD, many have argued that it, too, is a federally legal commodity. And if delta-8 is legal, then it can be sold in all kinds of premises, not just dispensaries that have been licensed to sell cannabis products.

This is exactly what’s happened in recent years; delta-8 gummies and oils have appeared on shelves in gas stations and corner shops across the country.

And that has got to change, argue three researchers in a new viewpoint paper. Published in JAMA Network, the research team from the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, say that the delta-8 market urgently needs more oversight and higher safety standards.

Whether to regulate delta-8

In their viewpoint letter, the researchers write that many delta-8 retailers don’t have the same safeguards that licensed cannabis retailers abide by. There is no established minimum purchasing age for hemp-derived cannabis products, for instance, nor any requirement for delta-8 products to include warning labels for the presence of THC.

Some of these retailers may also sell alcohol and tobacco products, which may lead to more customers co-using multiple substances, say the researchers.

Via their packaging, many delta-8 products can also be appealing to children and teenagers, according to the viewpoint letter. And this appeal may explain why, between January 2021 and February 2022, US national poison control centers received reports of 2,362 cases of delta-8 THC exposures.

Another safety issue is testing, or the lack thereof. There is currently no required, federal certification process to test hemp-derived cannabis products for contaminants such as heavy metals and residual solvents.

The researchers also point out that the relatively low potency of delta-8 products (which are sometimes colloquially called “diet weed”) may lead customers to overcompensate and consume too much, which can result in hallucinations, vomiting, and loss of consciousness.

While 21 states have enacted legislation to ban or restrict the sale of delta-8 products so far, the researchers say much more regulatory action is needed in order to protect consumers in the remaining 29 states and Washington, DC.

“The increasing marketing of psychotropic, hemp-derived cannabis products makes clear that a regulated hemp market that manufactures and sells products with more oversight and stricter safety standards is urgently needed,” the researchers wrote.

“State and federal regulators should prioritize new hemp policies that ensure prohibition of sale to minors; set requirements for testing, packaging, and labeling; and place limits on potency and concentration of psychotropic products.”

The delta-8 debate

The researchers are far from the first to openly criticize the current state of delta-8 regulations.

Speaking to Analytical Cannabis last year, Christopher Hudalla, founder and chief scientific officer at ProVerde Labs, explained that the lack of oversight was partly why his lab had chosen to boycott delta-8 products all together.

“There’s no regulatory control. And so we know children are consuming these products without any indication about how safe they are. That’s hugely irresponsible in my opinion.”

“What they’re selling on the market, there is some delta-8 in it,” he added. “Oftentimes, it’s high in delta-8; it might be 89% delta-8. But what nobody’s asking is what’s the other 11%? Is that other 11% toxic? And that’s where the problem is.”


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