Opening Pandora’s synthetic weed box

by DGO Staff

California’s cannabis industry is pushing back against the nationwide Delta-8 industry — and for good reason

The California Cannabis Industry Association recently published a white paper entitled “PANDORA’S BOX: The Dangers of a National, Unregulated, Hemp-Derived Intoxicating Cannabinoid Market,” which addressed the state of the synthetic cannabinoid market. The report’s main focus refers to the approval of the 2018 Farm Bill, which approved both hemp material and byproducts
— and has led to loopholes that allow a thriving but unregulated Delta 8 market to schlep products nationwide.

When it was introduced, most people assumed that the bill was intended to legalize non-intoxicating hemp products like CBD. What Congress didn’t realize that they essentially left the door open for synthetic hemp-based THC products — but they did. It passed, and now we’re watching the ramifications of it across the nation.

And now the California cannabis association is speaking out about the dangers of that.

The problem with un-regulated hemp THC products

“On May 19, 2022, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal issued its ruling in AK Futures, LLC v. Boyd Street Distro, LLC, 35 F4th 682 (9th. Cir. 2022), affirming a District Court’s decision that products containing Delta-8 THC are lawful under the Farm Bill because they meet the statutory definition of industrial hemp—even though they can get consumers high,” the white paper states.

It also outlines the potential problem with the exploitation of this loophole, stating: “While cannabis and its derivatives remain federally illegal, massive loopholes in the federal definition of hemp are being exploited by ‘hemp’ product manufacturers to sell extremely potent, often chemically synthesized intoxicants that are more powerful than anything available in licensed cannabis dispensaries.”

In other words, what the white paper is saying is that having chemically synthesized intoxicants, i.e. Delta-8 and Delta-9 products synthesized from hemp (along with all of the other synthetic hemp-based cannabinoids that are popping up), on the shelves of any store, anywhere that it hasn’t been outlawed, without regulations or licensing, is a big, fat problem. While cannabis in legal states is subject to strict regulation and safety standards, these products aren’t…which means that you’re running the risk of ingesting things that may not be on the label, with THC quantities listed that may not be accurate.

And, in some cases, the synthetic THC contained in these products is a hell of a lot more potent than what’s on the shelves in the dispensaries. It’s not unusual to see synthetic Delta-8 edible packages in some states (ahem, Texas) with 1,000 milligrams on the label. If you’ve ever accidentally over imbibed on real weed, you know what the issues with that could be.

So what can be done about it?

The white paper outlines four recommendations to address the issue.
The first issue calls for necessary federal legalization of the cannabis plant, which would deter these types of unregulated products from being bought or sold. The white paper recommendation states:

“Cannabis needs to be legalized and regulated at a federal level, and all plants grown for cannabinoid content should be subject to a similar set of regulations rather than an arbitrary, unworkable THC threshold.”

The white paper also recommends that the 2018 Farm Bill loopholes be fixed to prevent the unregulated delta producers from going unchecked. While the loopholes have allowed people in prohibition states to purchase edibles and other products with THC, it’s not a safe way to allow it.

The third recommendation in the white paper is for the Food and Drug Administration to “approve or disapprove of novel or synthesized cannabinoids not found in the plant in commercial quantities.” Colorado has already done that by outlawing synthetic Delta-8 products, but there aren’t a ton of other states who have joined in.

The fourth calls on the government of California to enforce existing laws to protect consumers. “Given the lack of federal leadership on cannabis policy, California has an opportunity to set an example for other states by crafting and implementing a coherent regulatory framework that encompasses all plants grown for cannabinoid content rather than industrial purposes,” the paper states. “Now is the time to do that.”

What’s next?

It’s unclear as to whether or not anything will come of the white paper, but it’s a good first step to getting the unregulated market under control.

And, the FDA sent warning letters to five businesses back in May that were im-properly selling Delta-8 products, which is another good start.

“The FDA is very concerned about the growing popularity of Delta-8 THC products being sold online and in stores nationwide,” FDA Principal Deputy Com-missioner Janet Woodcock, M.D, said. “These products often include claims that they treat or alleviate the side effects related to a wide variety of diseases or medical disorders, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, nausea, and anxiety. It is extremely troubling that some of the food products are packaged and labeled in ways that may appeal to children. We will continue to safeguard Americans’ health and safety by monitoring the marketplace and taking action when companies illegally sell products that pose a risk to public health.”

Either way, the widespread availability of Delta products’ in states where no recreational cannabis use is genuinely is a cause for concern. You can find gummies, flower, vapes, and pre-rolls at gas stations, corner stores, and head shops — and there’s no telling what’s in them. It’s an issue that needs to be addressed ASAP, before something happens and the cannabis industry faces the undue blame.


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