States Without Legal Cannabis Promoting Unregulated Delta-8 THC Usage
A new federally funded study published by the American Medical Association (AMA) found that people who live in states where marijuana is illegal are much more likely to have used products with lesser-known cannabinoids like delta-8 THC. This suggests that laws against marijuana may “unintentionally promote” use of these less strictly regulated products.
The study letter, which came out in the journal JAMA Network Open on Wednesday, has what the authors call the first-ever set of scientific data on how people use new cannabinoids like delta-8 THC, CBG, and CBN, as well as new numbers on how many CBD products people are using.
From June 22–26, survey data from 1,169 people was looked at by researchers at the University of Michigan, the University at Buffalo, and the Legacy Research Institute. More than one in five Americans (21%) said they had used the non-intoxicating cannabis in the past year. This means that the number of people using CBD has grown by 50% since 2019.
We can see a big change there, which is probably because CBD and other cannabinoids are easier to get now that hemp and its products are legal under the 2018 Farm Bill.
Twenty-five percent of those who answered said they had used a new cannabinoid in the past year. About 12% of those who answered used delta-8 THC, 5.2% used CBG, and 4.4% used CBN.
“Higher delta-8-THC use in states without medical or adult-use cannabis laws suggests that states that do not have cannabis laws may unintentionally encourage delta-8-THC use,” the study says. People who lived in states where cannabis wasn’t allowed were more than twice as likely to have used delta-8 THC.
This seems to support a larger trend that many studies have found over the past few years: making it legal to buy regulated marijuana goods keeps people from using illegal cannabis. In this case, people in states where cannabis isn’t legal are taking advantage of the “gray market” of cannabinoids. These are drugs that may be legal under federal hemp laws, but they are becoming more and more popular in state markets because there isn’t much regulation or information on how they affect health. One example is delta-8 THC.
Because there aren’t any industry standards to protect consumers and because delta-9-THC and its hemp-derived psychoactive analogs (e.g., delta-8-THC) have similar pharmacology or effects, the study says, “we support ongoing public health surveillance efforts targeting emerging cannabinoids.” This may be especially important for teens and young adults.
“Our results show how important it is to do more research in the future to learn more about how people think these products are safe, why they use them, and what happens when they do,” it says.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) helped pay for part of the study. Last year, the NIH and NIDA announced a funding chance for research projects that would look into “minor” cannabinoids.
Lawmakers, advocates, and people in the business all have different ideas about how to deal with new cannabinoids. Because of this, some states have moved to ban or limit their sale. Others want the federal government to change its rules so that cannabinoids that make people high are regulated separately from CBD.
State officials in charge of marijuana have asked Congress to make sure they’re looking at policies for more than just CBD when they make new cannabinoids. It is expected that lawmakers in Congress will talk about the problem when they negotiate the next Farm Bill. This will not happen until next year, though, because the current law was temporarily extended.
Because delta-8 THC is often made in a lab, the Drug regulation Administration (DEA) says that synthetic cannabinoids are illegal. However, the market for these products has grown anyway because of the lack of regulation.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been criticized for not regulating CBD, and they haven’t done much to deal with new cannabis problems. For instance, the agency has sent warning letters to several companies that they say are selling illegal “copycat” delta-8 THC products that look like famous brands like Doritos, Cheetos, and Jolly Ranchers on the packaging.