Study: ‘Vast Majority’ of Hemp Delta-9 Goods Illegally Modified

The “vast majority” of delta-9 hemp goods being sold around the U.S. – upwards of 75% – have been illegally modified or sourced from marijuana, according to a new scientific study released this week by California researchers.

The study, conducted by CBD Oracle and InfiniteCAL Labs, analyzed 53 hemp delta-9 products from 48 brands that were all available to ship across state lines from online retailers, and was published recently in the Journal of Cannabis Research.

The products analyzed advertised a range of 0.5 milligrams to 40 milligrams of delta-9 THC per package, but those numbers were generally off by at least 10%, and that was the least of the issues.

“The research shows that 49% of products included delta-9 THC produced by chemically modifying CBD and another 26% used delta-9 sourced from federally-illegal marijuana,” according to a press release that summarized the findings.

“The results show the consequences of the legal loophole which hemp (delta-9) THC companies are currently operating in,” the paper concludes. “With no centralized regulatory body, and very little in the way of state-specific regulations in most cases, intoxicating hemp products are currently allowed to operate with minimal oversight.”

The intoxicating hemp sector has boomed since 2018, when Congress legalized hemp through that year’s Farm Bill. But that same legislation neglected to put similar consumer safety parameters around hemp goods that most state-legal marijuana companies have to deal with, the report found, including independent lab testing, mandatory labeling and packaging standards, and child-resistant packaging.

But the new report concludes that, despite the federal legality of hemp, most delta-9 hemp goods cannot legally be sold under various state laws that prohibit the type of chemical modification that many of the products are being altered with, including the injection of marijuana-based THC.

Though only two of the products tested were found to be outside the legal limit of 0.3% delta-9 THC per dry weight, three-quarters weren’t tested for impurities that could be harmful to consumers. And 49% used synthetic THC that didn’t naturally occur in hemp plants, the study found.

All of those findings run contrary to state laws in Colorado, Hawaii, Massachusetts and North Dakota, researchers discovered.

“This means, in some states, over 75% of hemp delta-9 products are actually illegal,” the release stated, despite the fact that over 96% of the products tested were federally legal, because they fit the current federal definition of hemp.

Researchers estimated that their study involved brands that represent 75% of the current hemp delta-9 market, and said they believe there were 120 brands in the market as of April 2022.

The 53 products and 48 brands analyzed can be viewed here. They include companies from all over the country, based even in states that lack legal marijuana markets, such as North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin, along with companies based in mature cannabis markets such as California and Colorado.

Most of the goods in the study were edibles. The study sample included 38 gummies, three tinctures, one vape cartridge pen, two cookies, one brownie, one chocolate, three candies, three beverages and one rice krispies treat.

The study was released as Congress continues to wrestle with the federal definition of hemp and new rules for companies in the sector, and the authors of the study urged lawmakers to adopt new standards in order to address the overarching issue.

“In many cases, the advertised dosages are substantially higher than would be allowed in any regulated, legal, high-THC cannabis market in the country,” the paper concluded. “Considering the potential risks of excessive amounts of THC … the combination of factors here could be a cause for concern.”

“The problem from a consumer perspective is one of consent: people may buy under the assumption that the product is ‘just hemp’ or at least not high-THC, and others may get more THC than they wanted or were informed of through labeling,” the paper asserted. “These issues could be solved by the industry, but legislators might also take steps such as setting a total THC cap on hemp products or requiring accurate labeling.”

John Schroyer

John Schroyer has been a reporter since 2006, initially with a focus on politics, and covered the 2012 Colorado campaign to legalize marijuana. He has written about the cannabis industry specifically since 2014, after being on hand for the first-ever legal cannabis sales on New Year’s Day that year in Denver. John has covered subsequent marijuana market launches in California and Illinois, has written about every aspect of the marijuana trade, and was part of the team that built the cannabis industry’s first-ever trade show, MJBizCon. He joined Green Market Report in 2022.

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