LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansas officials call it unregulated and dangerous, but it’s a product being sold on some store shelves across the state.
Delta-8 is a chemically-altered marijuana product, and it comes in many different forms, like gummies and drinks.
Connie Taylor lives in Pulaski County and said she nearly ended up in the hospital after eating a small Delta-8 gummy.
“I don’t even know what that is,” Taylor said. “I didn’t like the way it made me feel.”
She said a clerk at a convenience store suggested she buy Delta-8 to help with the pain she was feeling from her arthritis.
Taylor said the packaging caught her eye, something she thinks a child would also be curious about.
“It was purple. It had little designs on it, real eye-catching,” she said.
Just $10 and ten minutes later, Taylor’s world turned upside down.
“I couldn’t even function. I could hardly work and then I got sick,” Taylor said. “I was messed up for three days.”
Dr. Alison Oliveto is a professor and Vice Chair of Research and Director of the Center for Addiction Research in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).
Oliveto said Delta-8 is a slightly different structure to Delta-9, but it can have similar effects.
“Hallucination, delusions, psychotic breaks in vulnerable individuals,” Oliveto said. “Kids can purchase these because it’s unregulated.”
What is Delta-8?
Understanding the science behind Delta-8 begins with Delta-9 THC, which is found in marijuana. Research experts found manufacturers are taking the natural versions of the THC compounds and chemically converting them into the man-made Delta-8 THC.
“It has very similar effects as Delta-9,” Oliveto said.
Delta-8 is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which means there’s no oversight and in some cases, the product is being made in unsanitary conditions, according to Oliveto.
“They’ve also found mercury, lead, and other nasty solvents and things like that,” she said.
Taylor believes Delta-8 is dangerous.
On the back of the package Taylor purchased, it states to only take ‘1/4 piece of 1 gummy and wait 60 minutes.’ In big bold letters, it reads, ‘Do not consume one whole piece. Extremely potent.’
How potent though?
Taylor said she consumed 1/4 or less of the gummy.
When Working4You scanned the QR code on the back, it brought us to a website. There was no phone number or address listed. There was an e-mail address, but our message bounced back.
Legal vs. Illegal?
So is Delta-8 illegal? Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission spokesman Scott Hardin said that answer depends on who you ask.
The line of legality blurred when federal lawmakers passed the 2018 Farm Bill.
After the bill’s passage, it allowed hemp to be sold but only if it’s under 0.3%, even in states where recreational marijuana is illegal. That ultimately opened a loophole for Delta-8 in Arkansas.
Dispensaries are not allowed to sell Delta-8 because it’s chemically altered, however, Hardin said because of the loophole, Arkansas’ alcoholic beverage control and tobacco commissions are not enforcing whether gas stations or other shops sell it.
“It’s up to local law enforcement and local prosecutors if they want to take action, if they can find an area that they think is worth prosecuting,” Hardin said.
The Dangers of Delta-8
UAMS said the Arkansas Poison Control Center received 21 calls last year involving Delta-8, some people were found unconscious. Of the 21 calls, nine involved minors.
“Be careful,” Hardin said.
National poison control centers received 2,362 exposure cases of Delta-8 THC products between January 1, 2021 (i.e., date that Delta-8 THC product code was added to the database), and February 28, 2022. Of the 2,362 exposure cases:
- 58% involved adults, 41% involved pediatric patients less than 18 years of age, and 1% did not report age.
- 40% involved unintentional exposure to Delta-8 THC and 82% of these unintentional exposures affected pediatric patients.
- 70% required healthcare facility evaluation, of which 8% resulted in admission to a critical care unit; 45% of patients requiring healthcare facility evaluation were pediatric patients.
- One pediatric case was coded with a medical outcome of death.
Taylor thinks Delta-8 should be removed from store shelves across the state.
“They need to get this stuff off the streets and out of those gas stations,” she said.
Others, including Oliveto, believe the same.
“If the State Legislature can find a way and if that’s in their purview to ban this, I would absolutely recommend that they do that,” Oliveto said.
Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin said Monday he supports efforts to ban Delta-8 and similar products.
“I support the current efforts of the Department of Health and Legislature to ban Delta-8 and similar substances that are a danger to the public, especially children,” Griffin said.
Taylor believes lawmakers need to address Delta-8 now because she fears an innocent person’s next purchase, could be their last.
“If you can’t buy it at a dispensary with the prescription or whatever then you don’t need to be taking it,” Taylor said.
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