Suzan Kennedy has smoked marijuana and says her Wisconsin roots mean she can handle alcohol, so she wasn’t worried earlier this year when a bartender in St. Paul, Minnesota described a cocktail with the cannabinoid delta-8 THC. as “a bit powerful.”
Hours after enjoying the tasty drink and silliness that reminded Kennedy of a weed high, she said, she began to feel “really shaky and weak” before collapsing in her friend’s arms. Kennedy regained consciousness and recovered, but her distaste for delta-8 remains, despite the fact that the substance is federally legal, unlike marijuana.
“I’m not someone who really tells people what to do,” said Kennedy, 35, who lives in Milwaukee and works in software sales. But if a friend tried to order a delta-8 drink, “he would tell them, ‘Absolutely not. You’re not going to put that on your body.’”
The FDA and some marijuana industry experts share Kennedy’s concerns. At least a dozen states have banned the hemp-derived drug, including Colorado, Montana, New York and Oregon, which have legalized marijuana. But delta-8 makers say the concerns are unfounded and say they are driven by marijuana businesses trying to protect their market share.
So what is the difference? The flower of the marijuana plant, the oil derived from it, and edibles made from it that contain delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, the drug’s high-producing substance, can be legally sold only in dispensaries in states that have legalized the use of marijuana. dope. Similar products containing delta-8 THC are sold online and in bars and retail stores throughout much of the US, including some places where marijuana remains illegal. That’s because a 2018 federal law legalized hemp, a variety of the cannabis plant. Hemp is not allowed to contain more than 0.3% of the psychotropic delta-9 THC found in marijuana.
Concerns about delta-8 largely center on how it’s made. Delta-8 is usually produced by dissolving CBD, a compound found in cannabis plants, in solvents, such as toluene often found in paint thinners. Some people in the marijuana industry say the process leaves behind potentially harmful residue. A published study in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology last year found lead, mercury and silicon in delta-8 e-cigarettes.
The FDA has warnings issued about the “serious health risks” of delta-8, citing concerns about the conversion process, and has received more than 100 reports of people hallucinating, vomiting and losing consciousness, among other problems, after consuming it. From January 2021 through this February, national poison control centers received more than 2,300 cases of delta-8, of which 70% required users to be tested at health care facilities, according to the FDA.
Delta-8 is “just the obvious solution for people who want access to cannabis but live in a state where it’s illegal,” said Dr. Peter Grinspoon, a primary care physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and a longtime medical cannabis provider. “You can have a lot of trouble buying cannabis or you can get delta-8.”
Grinspoon described delta-8 as half as potent as marijuana. But due to the lack of research on the possible benefits of delta-8 and the absence of regulation, he would not recommend that his patients use it. If it were regulated like the Massachusetts recreational and medical marijuana programs, she said, harmful contaminants could be marked or removed.
christopher hudallaChief Scientific Officer of ProVerde Laboratories, a Massachusetts marijuana and hemp testing company, said he has tested thousands of delta-8 products and all contained contaminants that could be harmful to consumers’ health.
Delta-8 has “incredible potential as a therapeutic” because it has many of the same benefits as marijuana, minus some of the intoxication, Hudalla said. “But delta-8, like unicorns, does not exist. What does exist on the market are synthetic mixes of unknown garbage.”
Justin Journay, owner of the delta-8 brand 3Chi, is skeptical of concerns about the products. He started the company in 2018 after hemp oil relieved his shoulder pain. He soon began to wonder what other cannabinoids in hemp might do. “‘There must be some gold in those hills,'” Journay recalled thinking. He said his Indiana-based company now has more than 300 employees and sponsors a NASCAR team.
When asked about FDA reports of bad reactions, Journay said: “There are risks with THC. There absolutely are. There are risks with cheeseburgers.”
He attributes the side effects to taking too much. “We say: ‘Start small.’ You can always take more,” the Journal said.
Journay said he understands the concerns about contaminants in delta-8 products and that his company was conducting tests to identify the small portion of substances that remain unknown, which he claims are plant cannabinoids.
In 3Chi delta-8 oil analysis conducted by Hudalla’s firm last year and posted on the 3Chi website found multiple unidentified compounds that are “not naturally occurring” and therefore “would not be recommended for human consumption.” Delta-8 oil is still sold on the 3Chi site.
Journal said the analysis found that only 0.4% of the oil contained unknown compounds. “How can you definitively say that compound isn’t natural when you don’t even know what it is?” he said in an email.
“The vast majority of the negative information out there and the push to make delta-8 illegal comes from the marijuana industries,” Journay said. “It’s cutting into their profit margins, which is funny that the pot guys are suddenly pro-prohibition.”
Delta-8 products appear to be significantly cheaper than weed. For example, Curaleaf, one of the most important in the world largest cannabis companiesoffers packs of gummies containing 100 milligrams of delta-9 THC for $25, plus sales tax, at a price massachusetts dispensary. in 3Chi, gummies with 400 milligrams of delta-8 are $29.99 onlinewithout taxation.
There is some truth to Journay’s criticism of the marijuana industry, said Chris Lindsey, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates for the legalization of marijuana for adults. “We see this happening in every adult-use legalization state,” Lindsey said. “Your established medical cannabis industry will sometimes be your loudest opponent, and that is a business thing. That’s not a marijuana thing.”
Still, the bans may not be fully working. In New York, which banned delta-8 in 2021, Lindsey said, it’s available at any warehouse.
In July, Minnesota implemented a law limiting the amount of THC, including delta-8, allowed in hemp products outside of its medical marijuana program. news reports he said the law would do away with delta-8. But the state can’t “control what’s being sold online outside of Minnesota and what’s being shipped,” said Maren Schroeder, policy director for Minnesota. Sensitive Change Minnesotawhose goal is to legalize recreational cannabis for adults.
Max Barber, a writer and editor from Minneapolis, remains interested in delta-8 despite restrictions in his state. Although he probably could get a prescription for medical marijuana because he has an anxiety disorder and chronic sleep problems, he hasn’t sought it out because the marijuana made his anxiety worse. He used CBD oil but found the effects to be inconsistent. In March 2021, he tested a 10-milligram delta-8 gummy.
“It got me pretty high, which I don’t enjoy,” he said.
Then he found what he considers the right dose for him: a third of a jelly bean, which he takes at night. He said he now sleeps six to eight hours a night, has less anxiety and is able to focus better. “I’ve become a kind of delta-8 evangelist to everyone I know who has trouble sleeping,” said Barber, who bought enough gummies to last for months after the new law went into effect.
To address concerns about delta-8, the federal government must regulate it and make it easier for consumers to access cannabis, said Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
hey pointed to a recent study in the International Journal of Drug Policy showing that the number of delta-8 Google searches in the US skyrocketed in 2021 and that interest was especially high in states that restricted cannabis use. “In an environment where the whole cannabis plant is legally available, there would be little or no demand for these alternative products,” Armentano said.
Lindsey of the Marijuana Policy Project isn’t so sure that matters. When she first learned of delta-8’s growing popularity in 2021, she thought it would go the way of drugs like K2 or Spice that she said fall between regulatory rules long enough to hit shelves before finally close.
“That didn’t materialize,” Lindsey said. “The more we understand about that plant, the more of these different cannabinoids will come out.” And that, she said, will in turn pique the interest of consumers and businesses.
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