The Dark Side of ∆8-THC: How Unregulated synthesized cannabinoids are Putting Natural hemp at Risk
Updated: Mar 28
The 2018 Farm Bill aimed to bring clarity to the industrial hemp industry, but has instead created a dangerous loophole that threatens consumer safety. It is troubling that within our industry, the pursuit of profit for a select few has led to the unchecked production of chemically manufactured cannabinoids that are falsely marketed as natural industrial hemp due to language ambiguities in the bill. As a community that was once built upon the power of a plant over commerce, we must question if we have sold out when we allow such practices to continue. We owe it to ourselves and our consumers to prioritize transparency and safety in our operations.
With limited knowledge of the cannabis plant and regulations, politicians turned to legacy cannabis personalities for guidance. However, this decision has resulted in a problematic situation where some legacy players are taking advantage of the gray areas in the law to produce substandard, chemically manufactured Δ8-THC. These unregulated products are potentially harmful to consumers and highlight the need for greater transparency and oversight in the cannabis industry.
The 2018 Farm Bill was meant to clarify the legality of hemp and its derivatives, including cannabinoids like CBD, and to provide a regulatory framework for the hemp industry. However, the ambiguity built into the bill has created a loophole that allows for the production and sale of unregulated and potentially harmful products like chemically modified delta-8 (Δ8) THC.
The 2018 Farm Bill was drafted by politicians with limited knowledge of the cannabis plant and regulations. They leaned heavily on legacy cannabis personalities for guidance, which has become problematic as the industry seeks stability and transparency. While growing cannabis in a backyard is manageable, commercial production presents unique challenges that were not fully considered. As a result, some of those legacy players were able to bring in investors who understand the advantages of an unregulated marketplace. They have used the legacy's name and reputation to take advantage of consumers and the gray areas in the law to produce substandard, chemically manufactured Δ8-THC.
In the US industrial hemp industry, ∆8-THC manufacturers are currently taking advantage of the flood of low-quality full-spectrum cannabinoid oils produced in unregulated facilities that flooded the market soon after the 2018 Farm Bill. These oils are being bought up and passed from unlicensed broker to broker in a race to the bottom of the pricing model. The claim that ∆8-THC products are natural is misleading, as a significant portion of the compound sold is actually chemically synthesized. Although ∆8-THC does exist in the cannabis plant naturally, the quantities are so minimal that it would require fields far exceeding current production levels of industrial hemp crops in the US. This means that the levels of ∆8-THC in the US markets are not naturally grown, but instead are chemically synthesized in a facility. As a result, consumers are at risk due to a lack of oversight and transparency in the industry.
The production process of ∆8-THC from full-spectrum industrial hemp cannabinoid oil involves the use of an acidic catalyst, such as sulfuric acid, to convert CBD or Δ9-THC into ∆8-THC. However, this process can be dangerous if not done correctly, and the resulting product may not be pure due to the presence of residual impurities and sulfuric acid.
To ensure that naturally grown ∆8-THC products are of the highest quality and safety, it's crucial to implement proper safety protocols and analytical testing. However, we believe that the industry needs to go beyond just implementing a QMS (quality management system) and instead introduce voluntary certifications that involve GAP (good agricultural practices) standards, such as RHS (Responsible Hemp Standard), which can provide customers with a full chain of custody regarding the cannabinoids as they move along their product life.
The production of ∆8-THC remains unregulated, and as such, it's important to understand the risks associated with using non-certified, untraceable, and low-quality oils. To protect consumers, we must demand transparency from manufacturers and ensure that they meet the highest standards of quality and safety. It's worth noting that ∆8-THC is currently illegal in 14 states, and more may follow in the coming months. By implementing GAP standards and certifications, we can help to ensure that the industry operates in a safe and responsible manner, while also providing consumers with the reassurance they need when using these products.
This regulatory vacuum has allowed first-to-market personalities to make an easy dollar, without concern for consumer safety or product quality. This lack of regulation has created a situation where anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of chemistry can manufacture and sell Δ8-THC products, without any quality control measures in place to ensure purity or potency.
There is no denying that the ambiguity built into the 2018 Farm Bill has created a regulatory void that has allowed unscrupulous individuals and companies to take advantage of consumers by selling substandard and potentially harmful products. It is essential that either the regulatory agencies or private agricultural standards overseen by independent 3rd party certifying bodies step in to provide clear guidance and oversight to ensure that the hemp industry is held to the highest standards of quality and safety. Only then can consumers have confidence in the products they are buying and using.
The unregulated market for delta-8 (Δ8) derived from hemp has become increasingly popular in recent years, with many small dispensaries relying on chemically modified cannabinoids to boost their profits. However, some advocates are now expressing concerns over proposed bans on these chemically manufactured cannabinoids, questioning the potential impact on the industry as a whole and the true cost of their continued use.
The question is, should the industry be so dependent on chemically modified cannabinoids like Δ8 when natural cannabinoids like CBD and CBN have been the cornerstone of the industry for decades? Many who were once passionate about CBD and hemp seem to have moved on to other trends or issues, leaving behind their earlier advocacy.
Companies and early adopters in the industry may have stopped producing natural, clean cannabinoids derived from actual hemp plants because of the difficulties involved in verifying their claims and gaining widespread recognition. Isomerization, the process used to create Δ8, involves rearranging the atoms within a molecule, resulting in a different chemical structure and properties compared to the original molecule.
While the starting material may have been a natural molecule, the end product has undergone a chemical transformation, making it distinct from the original molecule. Therefore, it is not considered a natural molecule based on its origins. Unless the isomerization happened naturally, it cannot be recognized as a naturally occurring molecule.
While naturally occurring cannabinoids like CBD and CBN have been the foundation of the industry for years, there has been a recent surge in the popularity of chemically modified cannabinoids like ∆8-THC. However, there are concerns about the safety and efficacy of these products, and it's worth considering whether the industry should rely so heavily on them. Despite the flood of messages from ∆8-THC manufacturers claiming their products are safe, regulatory bodies cannot yet confirm whether they are generally recognized as safe (GRAS). As a community, we have a responsibility to educate customers about the deceptive language being used and ensure that proper regulations are in place to protect their safety.
Are you interested in learning more about farms committed to producing high-quality hemp for use in certified consumer-facing products? Private certification schemes exist that focus on creating a certified hemp supply chain, with the resulting cannabinoids used as primary and non-direct ingredients for consumer products.
At FS Origins, we believe that the future of the hemp industry should revolve around natural cannabinoids like CBD and CBN, not potentially harmful and unregulated chemically modified cannabinoids like Δ8. We're working with farmers who have committed to producing certified cannabinoids, and it's our mission to educate consumers on the benefits of clean and natural products derived from actual hemp plants.
If you're tired of not knowing the origins of your cannabinoids, we have a solution. Our certified industrial hemp value chain offers full transparency, so you can trust the products you're purchasing. Contact our team today to learn more about our certified supply chain and make the switch to safer, more sustainable hemp products.