Amid growing health concerns, two major marijuana wholesale companies have decided to end the distribution of the controversial cannabinoid.
Citing "an abundance of concern" over public health risks, cannabis wholesalers in Ontario and British Columbia (two centers of recreational marijuana in Canada) have decided to indefinitely suspend orders of products containing the delta-8 THC cannabinoid derivative, according to multiple news outlets.
One of the companies is the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS). OCS' Chief Operating Officer, Denny Palarchio, recently sent an email to licensed cannabis producers explaining that OCS has been "monitoring emerging concerns in the United States" around delta-8 THC."
In particular, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued several public health warnings regarding delta-8. In addition, a significant number of state governments have also enacted legislation to restrict or ban products containing the enigmatic cannabinoid.
Palarchio goes on to say, "Although we are not aware of any adverse reactions to these products in the legal cannabis market in Canada to date, products containing delta-8 THC fall outside the definition of THC under the federal Cannabis Act."
"Although we are not aware of any adverse reactions to these products in the legal cannabis market in Canada to date, products containing delta-8 THC fall outside the definition of THC under the federal Cannabis Act."
- Denny Palarchio, Chief Operating Officer, Ontario Cannabis Store
The other wholesaler deciding to drop all delta-8 THC products is BC Liquor Distribution Branch (BCLDB). In a statement through a company spokesperson BCLDB shared that since delta-8 THC products "(fall) outside the definition of THC under the (federal) Cannabis Act," BCLDB's cannabis wholesale operation "will not be registering or replenishing any products that contain delta-8 THC."
"Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as delta-8 THC, is a psychoactive substance found in the Cannabis sativa plant, of which marijuana and hemp are two varieties. Delta-8 THC is one of over 100 cannabinoids produced naturally by the cannabis plant but is not found in significant amounts in the cannabis plant. As a result, concentrated amounts of delta-8 THC are typically manufactured from hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD)."
The most common cannabinoid, which most people are familiar with, is the delta-9 THC variant, which produces the "high" that many marijuana users experience. However, other cannabinoids, like delta-8, can produce a similar psychoactive effect.
With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp became legal to cultivate and sell in the United States again after a nearly century ban. The legislation defines hemp as any part of the cannabis sativa plant that produces less than 0.3% of the delta-9 THC cannabinoid.
The bill enabled manufacturers to begin producing and selling a wide variety of hemp-derived THC products without requiring the legalization of the more traditional marijuana plant. However, the bill did not address any of the more than 100 others variants, including delta-8. So, technically it is legal to sell delta-8 THC products with almost no regulatory oversight.
Via its website, the FDA is quick to point out that consumers should be aware that zero delta-8 THC products have been tested or approved by the agency for safe consumption. Part of the safety concern stems from how delta-8 is derived from the hemp plant.
The naturally occurring amount of delta-8 THC in hemp is very low. Therefore, to produce a usable amount of the variant, additional chemical substances are necessary to convert other cannabinoids, like CBD, into delta-8, via a synthetic conversion process.
Some of the household chemicals used to synthesize the delta-8 cannabinoid by manufacturers could be unsafe, thus making the end product a potential health hazard for consumers. Additionally, the FDA warns that certain facilities that manufacture delta-8 could also be unsanitary, leading to additional unsafe contamination during the final chemical process.
The simple answer to most of the uncertainty surrounding delta-8 THC, and any of the other 100 plus cannabinoids, is that there is not enough actual data to make informed decisions about its safe production and consumption. Until the FDA and other regulatory agencies around the globe invest the resources to sign off on the viability and safety of delta-8 THC, caution may be the best course of action for producers, wholesalers and retailers at this point. Unfortunately, sometimes just because something can be done does not mean it should.