Oregon’s Synthetic Cannabinoid Ban Will Protect Consumer Health and Safety
by Bethan Rose
For those interested in ensuring that the cannabis being sold today is pure and safe for consumption…this one’s for you!
As the waves of cannabis legalization have expanded across the United States, state-by-state markets and corresponding regulatory bodies have been formed. And while many of the regulatory rules have been crafted thoughtfully, existing cannabis policy gaps have contributed to concerning market behavior.
Recently, the cannabis marketplace has seen some interesting developments in the way of synthetic cannabinoids. Synthetic cannabinoids, for all intents and purposes, are those created in a laboratory setting as opposed to being grown naturally. And now, we are seeing the sale of products containing synthetic cannabinoids to consumers who may not understand the implications of consuming synthetics or may not even be aware that the products contain synthetic cannabinoids.
Alarmingly, there have been reports of synthetically created tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) being sold in the state of Washington. This synthetic THC differs from Delta-8 and Delta-10 and has been caught being passed off as standard, natural THC and sold to unsuspecting customers. Yikes!
One of the most prevalent manifestations of synthetic cannabinoids throughout 2020 and 2021 has been the emergence of Delta-8 THC products.
Delta-8 THC is a cannabinoid that is innate to the cannabis plant but is usually found in small quantities. It can, however, also be synthetically created from CBD. Most Delta-8 products available today were formulated by manipulating CBD isolate into Delta-8 in a lab. Like its cousin Delta-9 THC (the main compound in cannabis generally referred to as simply THC), Delta-8 causes psychoactive effects, though they are less potent than those brought on by Delta-9.
Among the cannabis consuming community, there is so far a lack of consensus as to how we should be regulating Delta-8—or whether or not Delta-8 holds any medicinal value in the first place. While some people think that Delta-8 is beneficial and should be allowed to be sold anywhere—including grocery stores, corner stores, and vape shops—others don’t think Delta-8 products should be sold at all.
On Sept. 14, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned against the use of products containing Delta-8 THC. Because Delta-8 can be extracted from hemp, which can be legally grown in the U.S. thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, the cannabinoid is technically legal in many states—for now. However, some states are moving to ban Delta-8 products.
A recent scandal in Washington state made it clear that handling this synthetic cannabinoid phenomenon is going to be more extensive than simply regulating Delta-8 THC.
In June 2021, the cannabis community was alerted to reports of synthetically produced THC products being sold and marketed to customers without any transparency to the customer. As reported by Respect My Region, cannabis wholesalers downstream in the supply chain were not aware that their suppliers were passing off synthetic THC as the real stuff.
This was a quick wake-up call to cannabis healers and advocates that the synthetic cannabinoid discussion goes beyond the regulation of new and novel cannabinoids. Now, we also need to make sure that the major cannabinoids we know and love—such as THC—are of natural origin.
Many of the brands involved in synthetic cannabinoids, including Unicorn Brands, have claimed that their manufacturing practices are within the bounds of the law and not something to be concerned about. Rather, they see their products as a pinnacle of new and innovative manufacturing processes. However, many skeptics believe further analysis of synthetic cannabinoids is required before celebrating them as innovative or beneficial.
One of the main concerns with state and federal cannabis policy is that they place such specific restrictions on the production and sale of natural cannabinoids, particularly THC. While some regulation is necessary, much of the existing regulation has led to unintended consequences. Producers looking to increase their profit margins have been able to engage in questionable practices that squeak through legislative loopholes and could possibly put consumers at risk.
Many of the businesses that operate in the cannabis space have good intentions. But, as capitalism dictates, there are going to be companies that make their business decisions (including sourcing, production, and sales decisions) based on whatever provides the most profit.
This “race to the bottom” in the cannabis marketplace, unfortunately, can lead to some concerning outcomes. My hope is that regulatory bodies, across jurisdictions, will stay ahead of the curve and do the work required to refine and clarify policy with an eye toward laws that keep the end-user safe and make sense for all the stakeholders involved.
Since the synthetic THC scandal in Washington was first reported, the state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) ruled against synthetic THC cannabinoids completely. Yet the situation remains murky, and there is talk of the board changing this stance for Delta-8. As of September 2021, the LCB is proposing legal sales of Delta-8 in regulated I-502 dispensaries. In Washington and beyond, this is an ever-moving situation.
With a lack of substantive research about the long-term effects of synthetic cannabinoids, including Delta-8 THC, I recommend that all conscious cannabis consumers keep their eyes on the developing picture of synthetic cannabinoids. Before you try it for yourself, do your own research! Additionally, stick with brands that provide transparent product testing whenever possible.
When you are purchasing cannabis, never hesitate to ask questions and conduct your own research to ensure that the brands you buy from are offering you real and natural cannabis products—you deserve to know that the THC was created by Earth and not by a human in a laboratory setting.
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