The marijuana-infused foods known as edibles are among the cannabis products possibly containing Delta-8 THC and causing “adverse events.” The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention blasted out an official Health Advisory, joined by the Food and Drug Administration.
It warns of danger because of the increased availability of cannabis products containing delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which the warning agencies say is because of insufficient labeling of projects containing THC and cannabidiol (CBD).
The danger comes from Delta-8 THC intoxication, which may include the following symptoms:
- Uncoordinated movements and decreased psychomotor activity
- Slurred speech
- Increased heart rate progressing to slowed heart rate
- Low blood pressure
- Difficulty breathing
Cannabis plants have several “isomers” — a certain type of molecule — with most often referring to the delta-9 THC. Delta-8 THC exists naturally in cannabis plants in only small quantities with 50 percent to 75 percent of the psychoactive punch as delta-9 THC.
Delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC and other THC isomers also come from the synthetic conversion of CBD, which isn’t naturally psychoactive.
“Delta-8 THC products are increasingly appearing in both marijuana and hemp marketplaces, some of which operate legally under state, territorial, or tribal laws,” according to the official CDC Health Advisory. “Most states and territories permit full or restricted hemp marketplaces that sell hemp and hemp-derived CBD products.”
“Products sold as concentrated delta-8 THC are also available online. Delta-8 THC products are sometimes marketed as “weed light” or “diet weed,” the advisory says.
“The health effects of delta-8 THC have not yet been researched extensively and are not well-understood. However, delta-8 THC is psychoactive and may have similar risks of impairment as delta-9 THC.4 As such, products that contain delta-8 THC but are labeled with only delta-9 THC content rather than with total THC content likely underestimate the psychoactive potential of these products for consumers.
“In addition, the sale of delta-8 THC products is not limited to regulated marijuana dispensaries in states, territories, or tribal nations where marketplaces operate under the law. Rather, delta-8 THC products are sold by a wide range of businesses that sell hemp. As a result, delta-8 THC products may also have the potential to be confused with hemp or CBD products that are not intoxicating. Consumers who use these products may therefore experience unexpected or increased THC intoxication.
“A wide variety of delta-8 THC-containing products have entered the marketplace, including, but not limited to, vapes, smokable hemp sprayed with delta-8 THC extract, distillates, tinctures, gummies, chocolates, and infused beverages,” the warning adds. “In addition, because testing methods for products like synthetically derived delta-8 THC are still being developed, delta-8 THC products may not be tested systematically for contaminants such as heavy metals, solvents, or pesticides that may have adverse health effects.”
CDC reports syndromic surveillance data from emergency departments participating in its National Syndromic Surveillance Program (NSSP) show an increase in delta-8 THC reports. More than 4,400 active emergency facilities in 49 states and Washington D.C. participate in the NSSP.
The NSSP picked up the first report involving delta-8 THC in September 2020 with monthly increases since. From Jan. 1 to July 31 this year the National Poison Data System (NPDS) has recorded 660 delta-8 exposures.
Eighteen percent of those exposures required hospitalization, and 39 percent of patients were younger than 18 years of age.
The CDC said one report of “two cases of severe adverse events to delta-8 THC in two children who ingested a parent’s delta-8 THC-infused gummies purchased from a vape shop. Both children experienced deep sedation and slowed breathing with initial increased heart rate progressing to slowed heart rate and decreased blood pressure. The children were admitted to the intensive care unit for further monitoring and oxygen supplementation.”
A spokesman for the pro-marijuana group known as NORML blamed the rise of delta-8 THC on marijuana policy conflicts that have left gaps in access to traditional cannabis products.
NORML’s Paul Armentano gave this quote to Marijuana Moment, a news site covering the cannabis industry: “We share some of these agencies’ concerns regarding the unregulated nature of these grey-market products. Of course, the artificial market demand for these products is largely an outgrowth of marijuana prohibition. Were whole-plant cannabis available legally, consumers would have little to no interest in experimenting with these unregulated imitations. But, absent widespread regulated access to cannabis, these unregulated producers and distributors are all too happy to fill this void.”
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