FDA, FTC issue new round of warnings over hemp-derived synthetic THC

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Six companies in five states have received warning letters from government agencies for selling illegal products containing delta-8 THC made from industrial hemp.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) targeted the companies for their online sales of products containing the synthetic form of THC.

Delta-8 THC naturally occurs in hemp but only in trace amounts. Taking advantage of unclear current laws, shady producers are turning out high-concentration delta-8 by putting hemp-derived CBD through a process in the lab. Delta-8 produces a psychoactive effect that is milder than that associated with delta-9 THC, the more common variety of THC found in marijuana. 

Dodgy products

Most states are working to reign in the synthetic products, which have proliferated after demand for off-the-shelf CBD extracts stagnated and prices and margins were trimmed; the struggling CBD producers found an outlet among the dodgy makers of delta-8 products. 

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration asserted earlier this year that delta-8 and other forms of hemp-based synthetic THC do not meet the federal definition of hemp and are therefore controlled substances subject to federal laws for drugs.

FDA rules bar the marketing of cannabis derivatives in food products, with both CBD and delta-8 THC unapproved for human and animal consumption. 

Dangers to kids

FDA has repeatedly chastised delta-8 THC operators for making their products appeal to children. The products are offered in forms such as candy, chips, vapes and beverages in packaging and under brand names and designs that mimic well-known snack food brands. Consumers may confuse the products with existing brands, FDA said, bringing the risk of unintended THC consumption.

FTC cited the companies for “illegally selling copycat food products containing Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol.”

“Marketing edible THC products that can be easily mistaken by children for regular foods is reckless and illegal,” said Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Companies must ensure that their products are marketed safely and responsibly, especially when it comes to protecting the well-being of children.”

Death in Virginia

FDA said it has received reports of serious adverse events from consumers who suffered “hallucinations, vomiting, tremors, anxiety, dizziness, confusion, and loss of consciousness.” At least one child’s death in Virginia was attributed to delta-8 consumption. 

The FDA also said some companies may be turning out delta-8 products that contain “harmful contaminants.”

Producers have argued that because the 2018 Farm Bill made hemp and its downstream products legal, delta-8 is therefore also legal. Opponents of delta-8 suggest the 2018 Farm Bill never intended hemp to be used to make psychoactive compounds and that nefarious players are exploiting the bill’s language to sell highly potent synthetic THC products that are widely available at retail.

Individuals and companies that received joint warning letters from the FDA & FTC:

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