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Doctors Join Call To Regulate Intoxicating Hemp Cannabinoids


A professional organization of physicians who support drug policy reform is calling for the regulation of intoxicating hemp-derived cannabinoids including delta-8 THC, arguing that the safety of products containing the compound is unknown. The recommendation was recently made by Doctors for Drug Policy Reform (D4DPR), a group of healthcare professionals formerly known as Doctors for Cannabis Regulation.

“Our stance at D4DPR is that all intoxicating cannabinoids should be subject to a regulatory framework to ensure public safety,” the group wrote in a policy paper released this month.

In the paper, D4DPR notes that the legalization of hemp with the 2018 Farm Bill “may have inadvertently legalized the chemical conversion of hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) and other phytocannabinoids (those derived directly from the plant) into intoxicating minor cannabinoids like delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (∆8-THC, also known as delta-8).” The legislation, however, did not include provisions to regulate hemp-derived cannabinoids, leading to a thriving industry of products containing intoxicating compounds that is unregulated in many jurisdictions.

“Taking advantage of this opportunity, ∆8-THC (chemically synthesized from hemp CBD) quickly became available in various retail outlets such as gas stations, CBD shops, convenience stores, smoke shops, and online platforms,” the group notes in the paper. “Several states have now either banned or imposed regulations on its sale. However, in 22 states (as of November 2023), ∆8-THC remains legal and unregulated, with limited laboratory testing and taxation, lacking warnings about its intoxicating effects, without dosing limits, and easily accessible to minors.”

To address the issue, D4DPR called on policymakers to develop and enact a regulatory framework for all intoxicating cannabinoids, regardless of their source. The group included several recommendations for the regulations, including a provision that would only allow the sale of intoxicating compounds by licensed dispensaries. The group also called for “appropriate taxation” to fund public health initiatives and regulatory oversight of the cannabinoid market.

The group also recommended that sales of intoxicating cannabinoids be restricted to adults aged 21 and older. The recommendations call for intoxicating hemp products to be sold only in child-resistant packaging that does not appeal to minors, with clear labeling about the intoxicating effects of the product. Packages should also include the International Intoxication Cannabinoid Product Symbol (the silhouette of a cannabis leaf) to indicate their contents in graphic form.

The recommendations also call for required lab testing of intoxicating cannabinoid products for purity, potency and safety, with certificates of analysis available to consumers for inspection. The group also recommended that research into the clinical safety and toxicology of minor cannabinoids be conducted, noting that many of the compounds are new to the market 

D4DPR also recommended that regulations for intoxicating cannabinoids be aligned with those in place in states with medical marijuana or adult-use cannabis programs and that states without regulations develop them as soon as possible. The group also called for the rescheduling of cannabis at the federal level, noting that a ban on intoxicating or minor cannabinoids “will result in a continuation of the drug war, leading to negative outcomes on public health.”

“This policy stance reflects our commitment to safeguarding public health while ensuring reasonable access to cannabis- and hemp-derived products within a responsible regulatory framework,” the D4DPR concluded in its recent policy paper.

The policy paper from D4DPR joins a chorus of calls to regulate intoxicating cannabinoids. Last month, 21 state attorneys general sent a letter to congressional leaders asking them “to address the glaring vagueness created in the 2018 Farm Bill.” 

“The reality is that this law has unleashed on our states a flood of products that are nothing less than a more potent form of cannabis, often in candy form that is made attractive to youth and children — with staggering levels of potency, no regulation, no oversight, and a limited capability for our offices to rein them in,” they wrote in the letter.

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