Hemp-derived Delta 8 skirts growing marijuana laws and health concerns.

Suzanne Kennedy smokes marijuana, and says her Wisconsin roots mean she can handle alcohol, so earlier this year when a bartender in St. Paul, Minnesota, discovered the cannabinoid delta-8 THC. A cocktail with “a little strong.”

A few hours after enjoying the delicious drink and the stupor that reminded Kennedy of getting high off weed, she said, she started feeling “really shaky and faint” before collapsing into her friend’s arms. Kennedy regained consciousness and recovered, but his distaste for Delta-8 remains, even though the substance is federally legal, 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 tried to order a Delta 8 drink, “I’d tell them, ‘Absolutely not. You’re not putting that in your body.'”

The FDA and some marijuana industry experts echo Kennedy’s concerns. At least a dozen states have banned the cannabis-derived drug, including Colorado, Montana, New York and Oregon, which have legalized marijuana. But the manufacturers of Delta 8 dismiss the concerns as unfounded and say they are driven by the marijuana business trying to protect its market share.

So what’s the difference? The flower of the marijuana plant, the oil extracted from it, and foods made from it contain delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, a substance that produces a high in the drug, and is only legally sold in dispensaries in these states. May be those who have legalized marijuana. Similar products containing delta-8 THC are sold online and at bars and retailers in most parts of the US, including some places where pot remains illegal. That’s because a 2018 federal law legalized cannabis, a type of hemp plant. Cannabis is not allowed to contain more than 0.3 percent of the psychotropic delta-9 THC found in marijuana.

Concerns about the Delta 8 mostly center around how it’s built. Delta-8 is typically produced by dissolving CBD — a compound found in hemp plants — in a solvent, such as toluene, which is often found in paint thinner. Some in the marijuana 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 a warning about the “serious health risks” of delta-8, citing concerns about the conversion process, and that people may experience hallucinations, vomiting, and unconsciousness after consuming it, among other problems. More than 100 lost reports have been received. According to the FDA, from January 2021 through this February, national poison control centers received more than 2,300 delta-8 cases, 70% of which required consumer evaluation at health care facilities.

Dr. Peter Grinspoon, a primary care physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and a longtime medical cannabis provider, said Delta-8 is “just an obvious solution for people who want access to cannabis but live in a state are where it is illegal.” “You can either 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 and the absence of regulation on the potential benefits of Delta 8, he won’t recommend it to his patients. If it were regulated like Massachusetts’ medical and recreational marijuana programs, he said, harmful contaminants could be flagged or removed.

Christopher Hudala, chief scientific officer of Proverde Laboratories, a Massachusetts-based marijuana and cannabis testing company, said he has tested thousands of Delta 8 products and found all of them to contain contaminants that are harmful to consumers’ health. can be

Hudla said Delta 8 has “incredible potential therapeutically” because it has many of the same benefits as marijuana, some reducing addiction. “But Delta 8, like the unicorn, does not exist. What is on the market is a synthetic mixture of unknown waste.

Justin Jarne, owner of Delta-8 brand 3Chi, is skeptical about concerns about the product. He started the company in 2018 after hemp oil provided relief for his shoulder pain. He soon began to wonder what the other cannabinoids in hemp could do. “‘There must be some gold in those hills,'” Trip recalled thinking. He said his Indiana-based company now has more than 300 employees and sponsors a NASCAR team.

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

He attributes the side effects to taking too much. “We say, ‘Start at the bottom.’ You can always take more,” Safar said.

Jarne said he understands the concerns about contamination in Delta 8 products and that his company is conducting tests to identify a small fraction of the substances that remain unidentified, which he claims are There are cannabinoids from the plant.

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

Analysis revealed that only 0.4 percent of the oil contained unknown compounds, Jarne said. “Then how can they say for sure that a compound is not natural when they don’t even know what it is?” he said in an email.

“The majority of the negative information out there and the attempt to outlaw Delta 8 is coming from the marijuana industry,” Jarne said. “It’s cutting into their profit margins, which is ridiculous that the marijuana guys would suddenly be for prohibition.”

Delta 8 products seem significantly cheaper than weed. For example, Curaleaf, one of the world’s largest cannabis companies, offers 100-milligram packages of delta-9 THC at a Massachusetts dispensary for $25 plus sales tax. At 3Chi, gummies with 400 mg of delta-8 cost $29.99 online, no tax.

There is some truth to Journe’s criticism of the marijuana industry, said Chris Lindsay, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates for adult legalization of marijuana. “We see this happening in every single state that legalizes adult use,” Lindsey said. “Their established medical cannabis industry will be your biggest adversary at times, and it’s a business thing. It’s not a marijuana thing.”

Still, sanctions aren’t working perfectly. In New York, which banned Delta 8 in 2021, Lindsey said, it’s available at any bodega.

In July, Minnesota enacted a law that limits the amount of THC, including delta-8, allowed in cannabis products outside of its medical marijuana program. News reports said the law would eliminate Delta 8. But the state can’t control what’s being sold on the Internet outside of Minnesota, said Marian 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 potentially get a medical prescription for marijuana because he has an anxiety disorder and chronic sleep problems, he didn’t pursue it because pot exacerbated his anxiety. He used CBD oil but found the effects inconsistent. In March 2021, he tried 10 mg of Delta 8 gum.

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

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

To address concerns about Delta 8, the federal government should 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.

He pointed to a recent study in the International Journal of Drug Policy that found that Google searches for Delta 8 increased in the U.S. in 2021, and that interest was particularly high in states with cannabis legalization. Use is prohibited. “In an environment where whole-plant cannabis is legally available, there will be little demand for these alternative products,” Armentano said.

Lindsay of the Marijuana Policy Project isn’t so sure it will make a difference. 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 had fallen too far between regulatory rules. Jana to finally hit the shelves before being discontinued.

“It just didn’t work out,” Lindsay said. “The more we understand about this plant, the more different cannabinoids we’ll uncover.” And that, he said, would pique the interest of consumers and businesses.

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