FDA and CDC Issue Warnings Regarding Risks of Using Delta-8 THC Products

Marco SIlva 16 Sep 2021

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued warnings on Tuesday to the public regarding the potential health risks of using products containing delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol, or Delta-8 THC.

Delta-8 THC is a psychoactive substance found in the Cannabis sativa plant, of which cannabis and hemp are two varieties. Delta-8 THC, one of over 100 cannabinoids produced naturally by the cannabis plant, is not found in significant amounts in the cannabis plant, being much less common (and less potent) than its well-known cannabinoid cousin delta-9 THC. As a result, concentrated amounts of delta-8 THC are typically manufactured from hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD).

In April of this year, Vermont regulators officially categorized hemp-based Delta-8 THC products as illegal under state law. The state’s Agency of Agriculture, Farms, and Markets (AAFM) informed all registered hemp cultivators that Delta-8 THC products are not regarded as legal hemp products, in an email sent out on Friday, April 23.

The FDA’s latest consumer update,  5 Things To Know About Delta-8 Tetrahydrocannabinol – Delta-8 THC, begins with a warning in large red letters: “DELTA-8 THC HAS SERIOUS HEALTH RISKS.”  The CDC’s Health Alert Network’s latest Health Advisory, Increases in Availability of Cannabis Products Containing Delta-8 THC and Reported Cases of Adverse Events, is intended to warn the public about the increased availability of cannabis products containing delta-8 THC and the potential for adverse events.  Among other things, the FDA and CDC are warning the public about:

  • A rise in adverse event reports to the FDA and the nation’s poison control centers related to delta-8 THC products, due to insufficient or misleading labeling as well as the mistaken belief that these products are non-psychoactive;
  • Marketing, including online marketing of products, that is appealing to children (gummies and other products may look like candy);
  • Concerns regarding contamination of delta-8 THC products due to methods of manufacturing.

“The rise in delta-8 THC products in marijuana and hemp marketplaces has increased the availability of psychoactive cannabis products, even in states … where non-medical adult cannabis use is not permitted under law,” the CDC warned, adding that poison-control centers have added a new code for delta-8 THC exposure.

The CDC encouraged consumers to be aware of possible misleading labeling and said retailers should “provide information to consumers about the psychoactive qualities of delta-8 THC.”

More than 100 people in the United States have been hospitalized so far this year after consuming delta-8 THC products. No fatalities have been reported. The warnings did not specify product names connected to any hospitalizations. The FDA also warned, without elaborating, that delta-8 THC “may have potentially harmful by-products (contaminants) due to the chemicals used in the process.”

A growing list of states, including those pioneering adult use legalization like Colorado and Washington, have banned delta-8 THC products from retail shelves. A study in June found that more than half of commercially available delta-8 THC products contained illegal levels of delta-9 THC.

Despite issuing the warnings, however, neither agency proposed banning the production or sale of the cannabinoid. The CDC encouraged consumers to be aware of possible misleading labeling and said retailers should “provide information to consumers about the psychoactive qualities of delta-8 THC.”

“Retailers selling cannabis products should report total THC content on product labeling, including ingredients like delta-8 THC that may be synthetically produced to create a psychoactive effect,” it said.

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