NJ health official cautions against use of unregulated cannabis cousin
Before recreational marijuana became legal in New Jersey earlier this year, a similar product that is technically considered hemp was being sold across the Garden State, in head shops, convenience stores and even in some gas stations.
The product known as delta-8 is derived from the same plant as marijuana, but according to Dr. Diane Calello, the executive and medical director of the New Jersey Poison Control Center at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, there are some important differences.
She said delta-8, technically known as delta-8 THC, is usually not as powerful as its cannabis cousin delta-9THC.
“The THC people think of is delta-9 THC, that is regulated, that is what just recently became legal. Delta-8 THC is not regulated but has very similar effects to delta-9 THC,” she said.
You never know what you'll get
Calello explained THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the ingredient that makes you feel high, and some batches of delta-8 are much stronger than others.
“We have seen patients with delta-8 THC toxicity. It causes disorientation and a high, but also some negative effects as the dose increases” she said.
Calello pointed out that delta-8 many also contain other substances or additives.
What's in it?
“A lot of the danger arises from not knowing exactly what is in the product, and not be able to estimate the exact effect of delta-8 THC,” Calello said.
She said because delta-8 is considered to be a hemp product it’s legal, but “predicting how strong it is and how many milligrams of delta-8 will produce the effect a consumer is looking for is actually very difficult, and we don’t know that.”
So is it safe?
Calello said if safety is a concern for you it’s important to remember a licensed product, “the one that actually does undergo the regulatory oversight that is being established with legal retail cannabis, those products would be the safest of all because they’re tested.”
She added a legal cannabis product is required to indicate what the milligrams are of the different compounds, “so whether it’s delta-9 THC or it’s CBD or any other ingredient, it has to be packaged in a way that the consumer can gauge how much they’re getting, and it has to be tested for contaminants.”
Calello said the bottom line is there's a lot of uncertainty when it comes to delta-8.
“Delta-8 is somewhere in that grey area because it is sold legally but it doesn’t have the testing and doesn’t have the package oversight that the legal cannabis products do. Right now delta-8 lives in limbo.”