The New Reefer Madness? Poison Control Centers Sound Alarm Over “Legal Marijuana” Compound Delta-8 THC.

The New Reefer Madness? Poison Control Centers Sound Alarm Over “Legal Marijuana” Compound Delta-8 THC.

Late last week, the University of Virginia Health System’s Blue Ridge Poison Center issued a troubling warning.

Over the past six months, “dozens” of people, including at least one toddler, had been hospitalized or sought medical attention after consuming products containing delta-8 THC. Doctors hadn’t seen anything like it, as the News Leader reported: in 2020, the state poison center received exactly zero calls related to Delta-8 THC.

As CBS-19 News’s version of the story pointed out, the timing could not have been worse. On July 1, Virginia will become the first state in the South to legalize cannabis products containing delta-9 THC for adults 21 and over.

This means the good citizens of Virginia will be the next populace subjected to a barrage of poison-control bulletins and breathless news items warning about the scourge of edible cannabis products.

Almost all of this should be ignored, or at least put into a much less-alarming context. However, the emergence of delta-8 THC as a weaker and much more widely available alternative to delta-9 presents a complication.

Most of this hand-wringing follows a very familiar script. Alarm over cannabis edibles—which almost always centers the risk to children, even if the sample size is only a few dozen cases in a state with millions of people, as it is in Virginia—is a rite of passage for the legal marijuana industry that’s played out in every other state to legalize.

But with delta-8 THC, there’s a couple extra wrinkles. As things currently stand, delta-8-—chemically similar but considered weaker than delta-9 THC, and generally produced from federally-legal hemp or CBD via a chemical process—is legal under both federal and Virginia law. Though some states ban or restrict delta-8, it’s nevertheless widely available at smoke shops, gas stations, convenience stores, and online.

That means that delta-8 THC products are almost all unregulated—which means there’s no guarantee of product safety, purity, or integrity. And states are catching on.

Virginia’s delta-8 alert echoes similar bulletins from poison control centers in other states. In April, the Michigan Poison Center at Wayne State University in Detroit—where cannabis dispensaries have operated for years—reported that delta-8 is popping up in products marketed or labeled as CBD.

Delta-8 THC is not poisonous. But, like delta-9 THC, consuming too much can lead to unwelcome side effects: lethargy, low heart rate, and other signs of being uncomfortably high.

In the legal cannabis industry, delta-8 presents a challenge as well as an opportunity. If delta-8 THC is mostly legal coast-to-coast, why would anyone bother paying more in taxes for a legal delta-9 product?

Product safety, for one—and, in a twist, positioning stronger but lab-tested delta-9 THC products as “safer” (or at least more predictable) is one strategy the legal industry is pursuing.

Delta-8 is still a “highly unregulated industry,” as Jeff Gray, the CEO and co-founder of Santa Cruz, California-based cannabis testing company SC Labs told Politico earlier this year.

Gray went even further, suggesting that delta-8 THC products present a risk for another bout of EVALI, the vape-related acute lung illnesses that killed 68 people and sickened about 3,000 more in 2019 and early 2020.

But the problem here isn’t delta-8 THC. It’s product safety, according to Chris Adlakha, a PharmD who owns several compounding pharmacy businesses in Texas—including one, Elevated Wellness, that sells delta-8 products.

Adlakha recommends delta-8 products to patients and customers reporting pain, insomnia, anxiety, and other symptoms for which there is “immense anecdotal evidence” that delta-8 works, he said in a statement provided to Forbes. For people who aren’t interested in a more intense psychoactive experience, delta-8 is a fine alternative to delta-9.

“The bigger issue,” Adlakha said in a statement provided to Forbes, “is that, as a hemp product, the government does not require third party testing, which, like other hemp based products, including CBD, may result in exposing consumers to harmful impurities, which could be 100% avoided with proper manufacturing and testing methods.”

Requiring companies manufacturing and marketing delta-8 products to test their wares and print clear and accurate labels—in the same way that adult-use cannabis companies making oils, edibles, or other products with delta-9 THC must do—is one solution to the problem highlighted by poison-control centers in Virginia, Michigan, and beyond.

However, none of this will stop the most common cause of someone—young or old—consuming too much cannabis product and calling the emergency room in a hazy panic. No law can prevent adults from carelessly leaving their cannabis products out where their children or dogs can eat them—and no law can prevent adults, children, or anyone else from foolishly taking too much and overdoing it, if that’s their wont.

In other words, the problem isn’t delta-8 THC. As usual, it’s people. But since it’s a lot easier to create a moral panic around cannabis than it is personal choices, here we are yet again.

https://newsminer.co

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