Delta-8 THC is all the rage in the U.S. cannabinoid market, but several publicly held companies with hemp-based CBD products said they are not buying into the frenzy.
Delta-8 THC has psychoactive effects and doesn’t belong in hemp products, Charlotte’s Web Holdings Inc. and others with publicly traded shares told Natural Products Insider. They also cited legal impediments under state and federal law, as well as regulatory hurdles regarding adding delta-8 THC to FDA-regulated products like conventional food and dietary supplements.
Kelly Shea, senior vice president of government affairs and communications with Charlotte’s Web, said her employer “does not support the marketing and sales of delta-8 THC products under the guise of being a hemp product.”
“Customers trust hemp products to be free of the effects experienced with higher THC cannabis,” Shea said in an email.
Marty Sumichrast, CEO of cbdMD Inc., whose shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), said his company is not planning to sell delta-8 THC.
“It is currently illegal in 12 states and the NYSE won’t allow for us to sell illegal products,” Sumichrast said via email. “We don’t feel it is for us.”
Australian-based Elixinol Wellness Ltd., another public company that produces CBD hemp oil, also has not entered the delta-8 THC market in the U.S.
“We do not currently market or intend to market delta-8 THC products,” said Rob Hasselman, president of Elixinol Americas. Consequently, he declined to comment on any legal, regulatory or safety concerns with such products.
‘Hottest new cannabinoid’
Delta-8 THC products provide consumers an immediate effect more noticeable than CBD, but without the adverse effects associated with delta-9 THC, like paranoia, according to some marketers of delta-8 THC products.
“There is a mild psychoactive effect, but it is different than if you are taking a cannabis-derived product,” said Sean McDonald, chief operating officer (COO) of CBD Living. The company recently announced the launch of a new product line called Delta-8 Living—with distribution through smoke shops and convenience stores.
Asked in an interview about feedback regarding the company’s delta-8 THC products, McDonald responded, “Consumers are loving it.”
In a recent report, Brightfield Group described delta-8 THC as “the hottest new cannabinoid of 2021.” Based on its second-quarter survey of 5,000 CBD consumers, the market research firm discovered 23% of American CBD users were aware of delta-8 THC. Of those, half had purchased delta-8 THC products.
Bethany Gomez, managing director of Brightfield Group, said delta-8 THC has been launched in hundreds of products over the last year. It is showing up in vapes and gummies and also can be found in cookies and candies, for example.
“There are some capsules and supplements,” Gomez said in an interview, but “not a lot.”
She acknowledged the sale of delta-8 THC is “very polarizing” within the hemp industry since many CBD brands are concerned the cannabinoid will create “undesirable attention for the category.”
Duffy MacKay, senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs with CV Sciences Inc., described delta-8 THC products as “all the rage amongst companies and individuals that specialize in illegal and quasi-legal ingredients.”
He predicted delta-8 THC will remain a “quasi-legal ingredient” for a time, then vanish.
“This is in part because nobody will do the scientific and regulatory work to legitimize the ingredient,” MacKay explained via email.
But another public company with CBD products is considering whether to offer delta-8 THC products.
"Although we do not currently offer any delta-8 THC products, we are investigating the opportunity," said Blake Schroeder, CEO of Medical Marijuana Inc., in an email. "Cannabis affects everyone differently, and we realize that delta-8 THC may have some potential wellness benefits that are different than the hemp CBD products that we currently offer."
He added: "Cannabis is becoming more mainstream than ever before, and it's no secret that consumers' purchasing habits continue to become more sophisticated and specific. Delta-8 THC has been big in the news and on social media—the demand for this product has increased significantly within the past few months."
Jason Mitchell is co-founder and CEO of HempFusion Wellness Inc. While he does not oppose any particular cannabinoid, Mitchell said he doesn’t believe now’s the time to be selling THC analogues.
From a regulatory standpoint, “We need to get CBD and the other non-psychoactive cannabinoids across the finish line and then work on analogues and THC later,” he said in an interview.
Mitchell asserted delta-8 THC is “federally illegal” and not subject to any regulations, including age restrictions.
“Now you have a delta-8 psychoactive cannabinoid being sold at gas stations, and who do you think’s going to get a hold of that?” he asked. “I just think it’s irresponsible.”
Delta-8 products should be regulated for adult use and current laws need to be clarified, Shea told Natural Products Insider. “Charlotte’s Web will continue to advocate both federally and at the state level that delta-8 THC products are adult-use and should have a distinct regulatory pathway that allows for the consumption in a safe, regulated and responsible manner, like other cannabis products.”
Delta-8 THC: ‘Very mild’
Still, other stakeholders in the hemp market have disputed claims that delta-8 THC is federally unlawful, and they are opposed to regulating it like marijuana.
In the 2018 Farm Bill legalizing hemp, U.S. lawmakers made clear “they wanted a path to market for all parts of the plant—all cannabinoids under 0.3% delta-9 THC,” said Rick Trojan, vice president of the board of directors of the Hemp Industries Association (HIA). “The fact that people say there’s a psychoactive or intoxicating effect, that’s never mentioned anywhere in the Farm Bill.”
Trojan said HIA is in favor of regulations governing the production and consumption of cannabinoids like delta-8 THC.
“We do want to make sure products don’t have adulterants and stuff that could cause harm, but cannabinoids themselves have never in the history of humanity caused a death by themselves,” he added in an interview.
Augustine Hanger is president of Industrial Hemp Farms, which launched delta-8 THC products in December 2020.
“Delta-8 is an awesome cannabinoid” and “shouldn’t be confused with traditional THC,” he said in an interview. He described the compound as “very mild.”
Matthew Guenther, a co-founder of Industrial Hemp Farms, said delta-8 THC “takes the edge off,” but when “formulated correctly, it shouldn’t get you high. It shouldn’t get you ripped.”
He added in an interview: “That stress—that tension in your shoulders because the day’s been tough—goes away, but you’re not impaired.”
Guenther said some of his friends at his golf country club in Florida take delta-8 THC products.
“Most of my friends are all 70-plus-years-old, lifelong, right-wing conservatives,” said Guenther, who also co-founded the American Cannabinoid Association. “They take delta-8 every day. They think it’s the coolest thing. They laugh, … ‘This is what cannabis was the whole time?’ I said, ‘If you took a delta-9 gummy, you wouldn’t be saying that.’”
Lingering concerns over delta-8 THC
But public companies in the CBD market are not the only ones opposed to the sale of delta-8 THC products. Enter Jeff Field, president and COO of Palmate, a privately held manufacturer of CBD isolate and other cannabinoid ingredients.
Founded in 2019, Palmate opted not to produce and sell delta-8 THC based on ethical and business considerations. The decision was a “simple one” that was “reinforced through subsequent investigation,” according to Field.
The 2018 Farm Bill’s intent “was not to legalize other cannabinoids such as delta-9 and delta-8 THC,” he said in an interview. “Legally, we had no desire to use loopholes to try to work around federal law.”
Field also observed delta-8 THC is being chemically synthesized from CBD, creating some unknown byproducts that may pose risks to consumers. What’s more, he expressed concerns about online distribution of delta-8 THC products where minors can acquire them.
Delta-8 THC “should be separated from the hemp industry because hemp and CBD products are to be marketed as non-euphoric wellness products,” he concluded. “And delta-8 is being sold as anything but a wellness product.”