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Rumpelstiltskin’s Modern Day Fairytale: The allure (and hazards) of Delta-8-THC

Keynoting at the Analytical Cannabis Expo East Online 2020 in October, Dr Chris Hudalla from ProVerde Lab presented his fascinating talk on the hazards of Delta-8-THC.

Talk abstract: The passage of the US Farm Bill created legal pathways for farmers, processors, and retailers to grow the hemp industry at a remarkable rate. The Farm Bill exempted hemp and “any part of the plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers…..” from the Controlled Substance Act. In October of 2019, the USDA Interim Final Rule (IFR) provided additional clarification, again applying the 0.3% dry weight limit only to the total Delta-9-THC concentration, exempting other isomers from the calculation of total tetrahydrocannabinol. This created an unintended loophole for the emergence of Delta-8-THC as a market alternative. Delta-8-THC, with more limited psychoactive effects relative to it’s Delta-9 sibling, is only found naturally in trace quantities in cannabis. However, it can be easily created by the semi-synthetic conversion from the readily available and inexpensive CBD, extracted from compliant hemp biomass. However, the synthetic processes used for these conversions can be unpredictable, resulting in consumer products containing unintended side products, contaminants, and isomers of THC. These unexpected compounds, which do not occur naturally, have not been studied for efficacy or toxicity, potentially presenting risks to consumer safety. More recently, the DEA has weighed in on this topic, releasing their Interim Final Rule, which clearly calls out these compounds as falling under the Controlled Substance Act. This presentation will discuss the synthetic pathways used in conversion, the complexity of the resulting products, and the changes in the regulatory landscape that will impact the commercialization of products containing these compounds.