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Hemp Products: What you need to know

Updated: Mar 2

We want to share important information about a relatively new type of drug being sold in

Marin. There is a line of intoxicating hemp-derived cannabis products that are being sold outside cannabis dispensaries. The most common form is called Delta-8 THC - but there are many variants with other names. These products have flooded the market. They're legal under loopholes in federal and California laws and are essentially unregulated. They're intoxicating and there are no minimum age requirements to purchase.

Technically, any 10-year old can buy an intoxicating hemp-derived product.

As with marijuana, these products are being manufactured with flavors and bright packaging to attract kids. They're marketed through social media like Instagram, YouTube and TikTok.

And they can be purchased online (think Amazon) and at local smoke shops and convenience stores (not licensed cannabis dispensaries). The photos appearing throughout this newsletter were all taken at either a central Marin smoke shop or a gas station convenience store we visited.

This newsletter will cover the following topics:

  • What is a hemp-derived cannabis product?

  • What products are being sold locally and online?

  • Why are these products risky and potentially very harmful?

  • How did this happen and what can be done?


Delta-8, -9, -10, and -11 THC, HHC, HHC-O and -P, THC-B, -H, -P and -V, THCM, THCA ... these are synthetically created cannabinoids (or compounds), with more variations to come. The most well known is Delta-8 THC.

WHAT are these products?

In short, they're cannabis products with ingredients extracted from hemp in a lab and chemically converted into cannabinoids (compounds). They're psychoactive cannabinoids. ie., they make users high. Just like regular marijuana products with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the primary intoxicating ingredient made from cannabis), hemp-derived THC and other variant cannabinoids affect the brain, attaching to cannabinoid receptors.

Currently, these hemp-derived products are federally legal and unregulated. A subset of the hemp industry has been allowed to proliferate with an array of products that mimic regulated marijuana products in legalized states - edibles, vapes (disposable and rechargeable), oils, concentrates, and traditional flower.

As our photos clearly show, many of these hemp-derived products are highly potent, flavored and packaged to appeal to kids.

While hemp-derived THC and other variant cannabinoids are touted as a milder alternative to regular marijuana THC (e.g., they're often marketed as a relaxed and euphoric high without panic or paranoia), they can quite powerful. Hemp-derived products often come with unsubstantiated health claims, as exemplified in this popular hemp company's website. Yet none of these products have been proven safe or effective - and there is mounting evidence to the contrary.


Negative impacts include hallucinations, anxiety, confusion, dizziness, tremors, vomiting and loss of consciousness. Of the recorded exposures in the National Poison Data System, 18% required hospitalizations.

Hemp-derived THC interacts with the same cannabinoid receptors in the brain and affects brain development in youth. It's addictive, more so in youth. And it's been linked to a range of mental illnesses, including psychosis, triggering long lasting mental health conditions.

The concern surrounding hemp-derived cannabis products has been so severe that the FDA sent out this alert last year on Delta-8, 5 Things to Know about Delta-8 Tetrahydrocannabinol – Delta-8 THC, that included these warnings:

1. Delta-8 THC products have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA for safe use

and may be marketed in ways that put the public health at risk

2. The FDA has received adverse event reports involving delta-8 THC-containing products

3. Delta-8 THC has psychoactive and intoxicating effects

4. Delta-8 THC products often involve use of potentially harmful chemicals to create the concentrations of delta-8 THC claimed in the marketplace

5. Delta-8 THC products should be kept out of the reach of children and pets.

Many of these products are made in questionable labs using unsafe household chemicals and when tested for contaminates have shown the presence heavy metals and pesticides.

Moreover, their ingredient labels can't be trusted. One cannabis consumer research company found 3/4 of the 51 products analyzed had higher regular THC levels than advertised and permitted under federal law.


The 2018 Farm Bill

In this federal legislation, Congress created two different legal classifications of the cannabis plant: hemp and marijuana. It removed hemp from the list of federally controlled substances. In doing so, it allowed the cultivation and use of industrial hemp and all of its parts. It all sounded natural and good - hemp cotton in clothing, hemp seeds in foods - to help struggling farmers. It limited the amount of Delta-9 THC that could be present in hemp products to .3% on a dry-weight basis, which made it sound mild and safe. What could be wrong about all of that?

But it was complicated and poorly written. There were terms in the bill like "isomers" and "salts" that created loopholes. The cannabis industry got "chemically creative" and the THC limit proved meaningless. The result has been a crazy proliferation of an array of psychoactive chemical variants in unregulated synthetic products posing significant health dangers.

Some states have tried to play catch-up, banning these products. But they're still on the shelves, as a result of loopholes in state legislation, lack of a regulatory scheme and little, if any, enforcement. This is the case in California. For example, California passed legislation making synthetically derived Delta-8 and other variants illegal. Not surprisingly, products are labeled as "natural" as a result - and the problem is that labs can't tell the difference between "naturally occurring" and "synthetically derived" compounds.

Although California required that manufactured inhaled hemp products (e.g., vaped concentrates) be shipped out of state, these products are staying here and being sold throughout California. Edibles and beverages, adulterated with hemp-derived ingredients, not "generally recognized as safe" by the FDA are treated the same as products which are.

In short, it's a mess. There are no regulatory protections or age restrictions in place. Today, it's a multi-million dollar industry that is threatening to upend the regulated cannabis market in California and other states where cannabis has been legalized.


Discuss with your child. Let them know claims that these products are "milder" than marijuana THC products or that they're "safe" or have "been tested" shouldn't be trusted. No one likes to be fooled and kids are no exception. Ask them if they've seen these products around and whether they know how kids are accessing them.

Find out whether our kids are learning about hemp-derived products in schools. Contact your child's school Wellness Center if there is one. Reach out to counselors and teachers who educate students about substance use. At some schools, drug education is through Social Issues (high school) or Physical Education (middle school). And if it's not being taught, advocate for education on this important topic.

Help us locally! Be the Influence and Marin Residents for Public Health Cannabis Policies are working to identify where these products are being sold and are contacting local authorities. We'll be working on countywide legislation to ban sales of these products.

If you learn any information that could be helpful, please reach out to us at (Your name and any identifying information will be kept strictly confidential). Be on the lookout for sales at gas station convenience stores, vape/smoke shops or places that sell CBD products.

Write your Representatives in Washington. The Farm Bill is being renewed in 2023 with an opportunity to rewrite and close these loopholes. Organizations like Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) make it easy. Just click here to add your name.

Thanks for reading! Let's continue to work together to keep our children and our communities safe.

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