VCU lab testing delta-8 products finds misleading…

114 points
Amanda Moses Ferreira inside Michelle Peace’s lab. Ferreira is eradicating a tiny pattern from edibles marketed as containing delta-8. (Allen Jones, College Advertising and marketing)

Dec. 15, 2021

“At the end of the day, it’s a consumer safety issue. For the most part, people are not aware of what they’re buying and cannot make informed decisions about what they consume.”

By Brian McNeill

A Virginia Commonwealth College lab has been analyzing merchandise made with the newly widespread delta-8 THC hashish analog out there in most CBD and tobacco stores. They’ve discovered an alarming lack of security requirements, correct labeling and high quality management.

Since early in the summertime, the lab of Michelle Peace, Ph.D., an affiliate professor within the Division of Forensic Science within the School of Humanities and Sciences, has examined dozens of merchandise offered in Virginia that comprise delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol, or delta-8 THC, a psychoactive cannabinoid that may have psychoactive and intoxicating results just like these of delta-9 THC, the primary compound in hashish.

“What we know — and we have analyzed lots of products — is that there’s no quality assurance for the final product,” Peace mentioned. “We know, for instance, that in some of the products we have evaluated, they are two, three, 10 times more concentrated with delta-8 than what the package claims. That can create, potentially, a pretty scary experience for the consumer, particularly if they are inexperienced.”

Merchandise made with delta-8, in addition to different artificial cannabinoids equivalent to delta-10, THCP and THC-O, have entered the market, usually touted as a authorized different to hashish. These merchandise are technically not authorized as a result of they comprise an artificial cannabinoid and embody smokeable flower, oils and edibles, together with gummies, cereal bars, cookies and extra. Grownup-use hashish is projected to be out there for authorized retail gross sales in Virginia in 2024.

Delta-8 merchandise are made by cooking CBD in a robust acid over a number of days after which extracting with ether. The method creates delta-8 THC and delta-9 THC. Merchandise offered containing delta-8 really comprise artificial delta-8 THC, which is federally unlawful. Moreover, CBD and CBD-derived merchandise usually embody a certificates of research that leads folks to consider it’s regulated and secure. These certificates, Peace’s lab has discovered, are sometimes deceptive or incorrect. 

Regulated and high quality examined CBD merchandise in Virginia are solely out there via the commonwealth’s medical marijuana program and attainable at a dispensary. All different CBD merchandise usually are not regulated, and due to this fact, shoppers don’t have any method of figuring out which merchandise are secure to eat. The Virginia Division of Agriculture and Shopper Providers oversees and regulates the manufacturing of hemp, which is used to fabricate CBD merchandise.

Nevertheless, Peace mentioned, the company has not put forth rules to manipulate the standard of consumable hemp/CBD merchandise like flower and edibles which are manufactured outdoors the medical marijuana program. The company, she added, doesn’t have the assets and personnel to watch the standard of CBD or CBD-derived merchandise.

“What we have demonstrated, time and again, is that very few certificates of analysis for CBD products are correct,” she mentioned. “We know that in some labs nationwide, they never even opened the package that’s sent to them. They just make up the [certificate of analysis] or copy it from another product. Oftentimes, the QR code on a product label takes you to the certificate of an entirely different product. Labs should be required to be properly accredited, and the entire cannabis ecosystem should be required to be transparent.

“At the end of the day, it’s a consumer safety issue,” Peace mentioned. “For the most part, people are not aware of what they’re buying and cannot make informed decisions about what they consume.”

Growing higher identification strategies

On a current afternoon in Peace’s lab, Amanda Moses Ferreira used a scalpel to take away a tiny pattern of a Cinnamon Toast Crunch deal with drizzled with a glaze believed to comprise synthetically produced delta-8. Ferreira, a scientific officer within the chemistry division of a forensic science lab in Trinidad and Tobago, has been analyzing samples at VCU as a part of a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship to study technical strategies for figuring out rising psychoactive substances.

“With the decriminalization of cannabis [in Trinidad and Tobago], we are starting to see a lot more edibles and seeing people move more into using cannabis in other forms, including e-cigarettes or e-liquids,” she mentioned. “And I know that we’ve been seeing a lot more cases of the schoolchildren using these types of products.”

Ferreira and Peace have been researching methods for drug testing labs to higher determine delta-8 and different hashish analogs.

“What’s very interesting about delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol and delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is that they are only different by the placement of one double bond. Delta-9 THC is the most abundant psychoactive cannabinoid in the cannabis sativa plant. Delta-8 THC is also naturally in the plant, but in trace amounts. The delta-8 in products is synthetic because you cannot extract enough delta-8 from the plant to be in the concentrations in the products we are seeing,” Peace mentioned. “From an analytical perspective, delta-8 originally looked like a contaminant when looking for delta-9. We knew that this was posing a significant challenge for drug testing labs.”

Peace’s lab is making ready to publish analysis that outlines strategies for drug testing labs to separate and higher determine delta-8 and delta-9.

“From the analytical and pharmacological perspectives, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered,” Peace mentioned.

‘Consumers don’t know what they’re getting’

Various the samples examined in Peace’s lab have been bought from Richmond-area retail retailers. Different samples have been despatched in, together with from a current poisoning case in Roanoke the place a 2-year-old was hospitalized after consuming a delta-8 product resembling Apple Jacks cereal.

In one other case, Peace’s lab was despatched samples discovered within the dwelling of an individual who dedicated against the law whereas experiencing extreme hallucinations. One of many merchandise, which had been opened and presumably consumed, was made with THC-O, a cannabinoid believed to be 300 occasions extra hallucinogenic than THC.

“This person was a cannabis user and went to a local CBD shop to purchase new product. The shop owner said, ‘You should try this,’” Peace mentioned. “People believe, when they walk into a shop, that they’re being informed correctly. So he goes home and takes this product with a new analog — a new synthetic cannabinoid. … That’s the problem. Consumers don’t know what they’re getting. And particularly if they’re inexperienced, they might have an effect they’re not expecting, is terrifying, or is dangerous.”

The analysis into delta-8 and different rising cannabinoids builds on Peace’s years of analysis into substance use traits with novel psychoactive substances, authorized medicine and over-the-counter drugs.

Included amongst her initiatives are analysis into the efficacy of digital cigarettes as an illicit drug supply system. One other is exploring the implications of the truth that e-liquids — the flavored nicotine answer utilized in e-cigarettes — usually comprise the unlisted ingredient ethanol, or alcohol.

Within the case of e-cigarettes and hashish merchandise, Peace says a standard thread is {that a} lack of constant security requirements, correct ingredient lists and high quality management in labs raises main shopper security considerations.

“There’s little transparency and there’s zero federal oversight,” she mentioned.

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