Bob Hoban – Delta-8 THC: A Tale Of American Ingenuity

Bob writes for Forbes

On May 14th, the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment banned the sale of products containing Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-8 THC). Over the last year, sales of this hemp-derived cannabinoid exploded, helping American farmers move otherwise stationary biomass off their fields. A number of states, including Michigan, New York, and Oregon, followed Colorado’s lead, enacting bans in the ensuing weeks.

While Delta-8 THC is not specifically listed as a controlled substance, many have argued over its ambiguity. The guidance from Colorado regulators aims to curb the use of hemp-derived cannabinoids, such as CBD, to convert or synthesize into other cannabinoids. This is particularly true for cannabinoids similar in molecular structure to Delta-9 THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid specifically listed as a Controlled Substance, and what legally distinguishes industrial hemp from marijuana in the U.S.

Despite being almost chemically identical, Delta-8 THC exists in a regulatory loophole, and by many accounts provides a mildly psychoactive effect. Whether it be gummies, joints, or vape pens, Delta-8 THC products have flown off the shelves, sales more than doubling in the past year. This has been especially true in jurisdictions with legal adult-use marijuana.

Keep in mind, this is all unfolding as the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) process for evaluating cannabinoids continues to unfold at a glacial pace. When asked about Delta-8 THC, the FDA advised contacting the Drug Enforcement Administration, effectively indicating their unwillingness to preside over jurisdiction of the cannabinoid. Recall too, in late 2020 the Drug Enforcement Administration issued an interim final rule for hemp stating that synthetically derived THC remained a Schedule I controlled substance.

As sales for Delta-8 THC began to take off, many in the hemp-derived cannabidiol industry saw that they could take CBD-rich biomass or CBD isolate and convert it to Delta-8 THC. In this process, one is not just extracting a compound from the plant. Rather, you’re taking an extracted compound and synthetically converting it into another compound using a chemical process.

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