This week, Colorado’s lawmakers passed a Senate bill (SB-205) to allow the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to limit the sale of delta-8 THC products and create a task force to study intoxicating hemp products and, meanwhile, focus on consumer protection.
The task force will submit a report to the general assembly by January 1, 2023. It will comprise 20 members, including state government representatives, experts in cannabis and industrial hemp regulation, and other stakeholders. The bill also allocates $587,347 to the Colorado attorney general’s office to focus on the general consumer protection from synthetic hemp-derived intoxicating products, including delta-8 THC and delta-10 THC.
The measure was introduced in the Colorado legislature last month and aimed to ban any intoxicating cannabis product that isn’t produced by a state-licensed cannabis business or sold at a licensed dispensary.
However, some of Colorado’s hemp businesses didn’t initially support the bill’s first draft as the measures were too restrictive. They argued that not all synthetic hemp-derived cannabinoid products are intoxicating, and some are used for medical purposes, such as hemp-derived tinctures.
Lawmakers later amended the bill and focused the measure on limiting the sales of products containing chemical modification, conversion, or synthetic derivation of delta-8 THC, delta-10 THC, and other synthetic intoxicating compounds originated or synthesized from hemp.
Before the CDPHE and the task force begin working, Gov. Jared Polis has to sign the bill into law.
Chase Terwilliger, CEO of Balanced Health Botanicals (BHB), a parent company of CBDistillery, said that the chances of Colorado regulating delta-8 THC products are low.
“Right now, delta-8 THC products are prohibited in Colorado, and I believe they will continue to be prohibited. We’ve tested these products, and you see many unidentifiable byproducts resulting from the chemical conversion. That should scare anyone from taking it,” he said.
The popularity of delta-8 THC came to light after businesses found a loophole in the 2018 Farm Bill that federally legalized hemp cultivation. As the bill did not put restrictions on selling, transporting, or possessing hemp-derived products, businesses started producing and selling intoxicating hemp-derived products, including delta-8 THC and delta-10 THC.
Unlike cannabidiol (CBD), which has no intoxicating effects, delta-8 is a cannabis compound that shares almost the same molecular structure as the most famous cannabinoid delta-9 THC (or simply THC).
Like THC, delta-8 THC has psychoactive effects on humans, although slightly less effective. But unlike THC, delta-8 THC is not illegal at the federal level.
Delta-8 THC can be naturally found in the cannabis plant, but only in low quantities. For this reason, it has to be synthetically converted from CBD, and, therefore, delta-8 THC products are synthetic.
Products containing delta-8-THC are available in several forms, including edibles, gummies, vape cartridges, dabs, extracts, distillate, tinctures, and infused beverages.
Due to little knowledge of synthetic delta-8 THC products, Colorado and other states banned its sales as there is no guarantee of its safety.
However, the popularity of delta-8 THC across the country, especially in those states that have not legalized the sales of adult-use cannabis, didn’t stop businesses from joining a market that is expected to hit $10 million by 2022.
Although CBD and delta-8 THC are two completely different products, the rise of synthetic delta-8 THC products may affect the CBD industry.
Terwilliger explained that some retailers push their customers to delta-8 products rather than CBD products.
At the federal level, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued, on May 4, warning letters to five companies for selling products labeled as containing delta-8 THC in ways that violate the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act).
However, the legal situation of CBD at the federal level doesn’t differ much from delta-8 THC, even though CBD has no psychoactive effect.
“There has been very little progress made with the FDA. They’ve been clear that they want Congress to act. Unfortunately, even with all the bi-partisan support for HR 841, I don’t believe the issue will be addressed until the 2023 Farm Bill,” Terwilliger said.
A study published on May 17 by Denver-based company Charlotte’s Web in response to questions from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding liver safety among daily CBD users have found no liver toxicity or drowsiness.