Written by Dr. Jamie Corroon ND, MPH, Founder & Medical Director of the Center for Medical Cannabis Education and Medical Advisor to CV Sciences
In the past year, despite confusion surrounding their safety and legality, sales of hemp-derived dietary supplement products containing Delta-8 THC (i.e., Delta-8) have spiked throughout the United States, by as much as 144% according to some reports. At best, these Delta-8 products may benefit consumers while elucidating loopholes in existing regulations. At worst, they may put consumers at risk and damage the legitimacy and reputation of the fledgling hemp-derived dietary supplement industry.
Healthcare professionals like myself, along with hemp industry stakeholders, are not only concerned about the lack of safety data, but also about the unwanted attention, and possible regulatory oversight, that these products may generate. The hemp-derived dietary supplement industry is embryonic, with many players taking painstaking measures to comply with complex federal and state regulations. Additional oversight brought on by Delta-8 THC concerns could stall the careful progress of an emerging industry.
What is Delta-8?
Delta-8 is a minor, and relatively rare, phytocannabinoid that naturally occurs in Cannabis spp.. It is virtually identical to Delta-9 THC in terms of its chemical structure. In plant material, Delta-8 occurs in concentrations significantly below 1%. Delta-8 is either biosynthesized directly by the plant or formed as a degradation product from the oxidation of Delta-9 THC. Because its naturally occurring concentrations are so low, extracting Delta-8 for dietary supplement products is not economically viable.
Delta-8 can also be chemically synthesized in a lab, however, either de novo (i.e., from new) or by using other phytocannabinoids, like CBD, as a starting point. This process is more economically efficient, especially given the stockpiles of CBD leftover from the rush to build the supply chain for a rapidly growing industry of hemp-derived CBD products.
Risk of Contamination
This later approach introduces the potential for contamination from residual reagents, catalysts and byproducts involved in the chemical transformation, however. While some of the byproducts may be naturally occurring in Cannabis itself (i.e., …