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Legality of Types of THC Causing Problems in the Cannabis Industry

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Key points:

  • The mice responded with the same effects when given a dose of legal Δ8-THC and illegal Δ9-THC.
  • The researchers say the two types of THC are the same, although one is considered a Schedule I drug and the other is sold as hemp.
  • The distinction raises tensions between the hemp and cannabis industries.

Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the psychoactive compound produced by cannabis plants. The federal government places Δ9-THC on the Schedule 1 list of drugs with no accepted medical use. But other versions of THC that differ only in the location of a double bond, such as Δ8-THC, remain legal.

In a new study, researchers from the University of Connecticut say differences between THC types are unsupported by science, pose a danger to consumers, and cause conflict between the hemp and cannabis industries. cannabis.

For the study published in Drug and alcohol addiction, researchers have reproduced work done in Japan in the 1980s which showed that Δ8-THC produced the same effects in mice as Δ9-THC. UConn researchers Steve Kinsey and Olivia Vanegas confirmed the results: mice given Δ8 became lethargic, their body temperature dropped, and they became cataleptic, meaning the researchers could place the mice in unusual positions and remained so for several seconds, which is common in THC-treated mice, but not in normal mice.

Taking the work a step further, the UConn researchers blocked the mice’s THC receptors. The blocked mice had no reaction to Δ8-THC, which clearly shows that Δ8 interacts with the same receptors as Δ9-THC. Then they gave a group of mice Δ8-THC twice a day for five days. Over time, the mice became desensitized to it, and when subsequently given the THC blocker, the mice acted as if in withdrawal.

Collaborators from RTI International conducted an experiment “asking” mice how the drug felt. First, they trained the mice to travel to a specific location for a reward if given a dose of Δ9-THC. After training, the mice received a dose of Δ8-THC. Unsurprisingly, they traveled to the same reward point as when they received a dose of Δ9.

“So they’re telling us the same thing people buying stuff at gas stations tell us: Δ8 looks like THC,” Kinsey says.

Legally, this poses problems.

The distinction between Δ8- and Δ9- originated from the Congressional Farm Bill covering the cultivation and sales of hemp. Hemp is defined as a cannabis plant containing less than 0.3% Δ9-THC by dry weight. Anything with more concentrated Δ9-THC is considered marijuana. Additionally, the Farm Bill states that everything naturally present in the hemp plant is legal, including Δ8-THC.

“It’s creating a fight between marijuana and hemp growers,” says John Harloe, an attorney for the Colorado THC Task Force. “[Products classified as marijuana] must be sold through dispensaries and pay high taxes, while hemp growers can sell essentially the same product but without the same regulations, due to the ambiguity of the Farm Bill,” Harloe said.

Harloe will present the current study to the Colorado task force, which is trying to create appropriate regulations that will address the different chemical variations of THC and protect public safety without crippling the hemp industry.

Information provided by UConn.