Perhaps the hottest trend the cannabis industry has witnessed in the past year is the emergence of Delta-8.
This compound, sold "legally" under a loose interpretation of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized industrial hemp at the federal level, is said to occur naturally in hemp and marijuana. It has gained popularity in recent months because, despite pot prohibition laws in many parts of the country, this product is getting users high.
However, unlike Delta-9 THC, the intoxicating cannabinoid found in real-deal pot – the fun bud being sold in legal cannabis states – Delta-8 is not as naturally occurring as some people claim.
Due to lack of oversight, Delta-8 products, according to various reports, are often processed with dangerous household chemicals, not dissimilar to the shoddy practices of meth makers. Indeed, Delta-8 THC is naturally occurring, but only in small amounts. To produce it in higher levels, it must be chemically converted from CBD in a lab. And that's where Delta-8 starts to get sketchy.
The U.S Cannabis Council asserts that Delta-8 can contain heavy metal lead, pesticides, and other dangerous contaminants. Furthermore, nearly 70 percent of these products are labeled with inaccuracies, according to a recent analysis from Leafreport. Federal health agencies have also come forward to warn the public of adverse reactions stemming from the use of tainted products.
In other words, the average Delta-8 consumer doesn’t appear to know much, if anything, about the safety and purity of the Delta-8 they’re putting into their bodies. Furthermore, they don’t seem to care. This struck us as odd considering how much the cannabis community focuses on health and wellness.
We have so many questions.
For starters, who is buying this garbage? It couldn't be the OG cannabis aficionados, could it? After all, many of these folks now have access to legal, regulated cannabis products that must pass a certain standard before landing on dispensary shelves.
So, why would they even consider Delta-Meth? Who knows, but somebody is buying this stuff. Delta-8 sales hit $10 million in 2020.
No, this hemp extract, much like the dirty synthetic marijuana known as K2 and Spice, is more likely being consumed by people who don’t know better, or by trailer trash derelicts looking for cheap ways to get high when they can’t afford cough medicine. That makes more sense.
Still, even if that is the case, is it their fault? Maybe the junk cannabis trend is just another unforeseen consequence perpetrated by the federal government's refusal to legalize weed nationwide? It turns out, that’s probably true.
One reader, Jean, from Kentucky, where marijuana remains illegal, told The Bluntness that her daughter is a regular Delta-8 user because she believes it's the same as cannabis.
"She doesn't buy into the ballyhoo about the chemicals," Jean declared. "She thinks that's just the politicians trying to correct their mistake and get it banned."
The mistake Jean refers to is the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill. Many people believe this cannabis development legalized Delta-8 THC nationwide.
Another reader, David, a 35-year-old dispensary consultant from Illinois, told us that he's noticed the popularity of Delta-8 becoming more prevalent in areas of prohibition. "People who want weed but can't get it for whatever reason, buy Delta-8," he said. "A lot of them think it's just as good."
Sure, and Applebee’s is a nice restaurant.
When we reached out to NORML to learn more about the demographics of the average Delta-8 customer, Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of the national cannabis advocacy group, pointed us to Dr. Dale Gieringer, Ph.D. and Director at the California chapter.
Dr. Gieringer just published an explainer to help consumers better understand the intricacies of the Delta-8 debacle.
Dr. Gieringer admits to not having any "direct insight" into the Delta-8 customer base. But based on his personal experience, he claims what is being sold in state-licensed dispensaries is legit.
"I found them to be quite pleasant - not so strong as to be intoxicating or impairing, but peculiarly euphoric and energizing," Gieringer said.
"Friends of mine have had different reactions - some say it doesn't do anything, others like it. I think Delta-8 could be especially appealing to older consumers like myself, who don't like to get intoxicated but enjoy a pleasant cannabis pick-me-up.”
The plot thickens.
The thing is, not all Delta-8 is the same. While many cannabis companies do their best to create high-quality products, fly-by-night operations don’t care.
The saving grace is supposed to be that reputable products are accompanied by accurate certificates of analysis (COAs) – showing they've been tested and contain no hazardous toxins.
However, one former Delta-8 salesman, who wishes to remain anonymous, claims the COAs aren’t always correct. They are, in fact, sometimes edited to show a product was examined, even though it wasn’t. "Our COAs weren't accurate," he said. "None of our Delta-8 was batch tested, and they were selling gallons of it to other companies."
But that’s not to say Delta-8 isn’t fit for consumption. It probably is.
However, it is crucial that users get it from reputable sources. Avoiding Delta-8 from unregulated market retailers like convenience stores, smoke shops, and gas stations is advisable, Gieringer notes in his paper. Chances are they are not what they claim.
As far as the overall safety of Delta-8, specifically those items bound by the same quality standards as other regulated cannabis or hemp products being sold in legal cannabis dispensaries, Dr. Gieringer believes their purity can be trusted. "The safety of Delta-8 THC is thought by most experts to be similar to that of other cannabinoids,” he wrote.
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