Avoid ‘Diet Weed,’ Johns Hopkins Expert Says
The market for hemp-derived cannabinoids is currently booming, but experts are warning consumers to educate themselves on the differences between delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC products. According to a previous report by High Times, delta-8 THC was first partially synthesized in 1941, but there is still controversy surrounding its extraction and conversion methods. In an effort to inform the public, a professor from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and other experts are advocating for education on cannabis choices.
Ryan Vandrey, Ph.D., a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine who specializes in the behavior pharmacology of cannabis, explains that while delta-8 and delta-9 THC are chemically similar, their slight structural difference affects how they interact with the body’s cannabinoid receptors. The majority of delta-8 on the market is converted from CBD using a natural solvent and acid, but there is disagreement within and outside of the cannabis industry on whether it should be classified as synthetic or natural. Vandrey also notes that delta-9 THC is stronger, so consumers may wonder why they would choose delta-8.
Some have dubbed delta-8 THC as “diet weed” due to its less potent effects compared to delta-9 THC. A popular Reddit thread in r/weed asked, “Does delta-8 THC get you high or is it a scam?” and the consensus seems to be that it has fewer psychedelic effects. Despite this, sales of hemp-derived cannabinoids like CBD continue to surpass those of adult-use cannabis and are comparable to the craft beer industry, according to Whitney Economics.
While representatives from NORML have stated that delta-8 is not a primary concern, they warn consumers to be cautious of residual chemicals and other byproducts in gas station hemp products. Dale Gieringer of Cal NORML specifically points out THCO as a particularly problematic compound with the potential for harm. Peter Grinspoon, M.D., a primary care doctor at Mass General Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, supports medical cannabis but notes that state medical cannabis programs do a better job at vetting ingredients than shops selling delta-8 products.
Grinspoon also highlights the confusion caused by the federal government’s lack of regulation on hemp-derived cannabinoids, making it difficult for consumers to determine what is safe and what is not. “In addition to lack of regulation, we have regulatory incoherence from different branches and levels of government… That’s going to make it even harder to get any coherent regulation on things,” he told Nexstar. Legal experts have also noted that the FDA had no intention of legalizing delta-8 at the beginning of the 20th century.