On February 13th, the DEA issued a statement clarifying their stance on hemp-derived Delta-9 THCO and hemp-derived Delta-8 THCO, stating that they consider them both Schedule 1 illicit substances under the Controlled Substances Act. These products were being sold under the assumption that the law allows for their sale because they are derived from legal hemp, but since these cannabinoids do not occur naturally in the plant they are to be considered synthetic THC, which is prohibited under the Act.

There are good reasons to be cautious with these two compounds. Delta-9 THCO and Delta-8 THCO are relatively new to the market, so very little study has been conducted as to their safety. There is no federally-mandated safety testing of hemp products, so these products are often contaminated with heavy metals, pesticide residues, or harmful microbes and their byproducts. Many reports of negative effects have been received by the FDA, with a range of symptoms including hallucinations, vomiting, tremor, anxiety, dizziness, confusion, and loss of consciousness. In addition, Munger et al. found that vaporizing THCO products creates ketene gas as a byproduct, which can be lethal at a concentration at 5 ppm or greater (2022).

The announcement has consumers concerned and producers scrambling to pivot. More research into novel cannabinoid health effects is needed to determine the actual level of risk for consumers, but we aren’t quite there yet. Until then, producing products that contain novel cannabinoids carries serious risk, both to the consumer and the operator.

Andrew Hatch
Director of Product Safety

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