When most people talk about marijuana, they are referring to Delta-9 THC, the ingredient in marijuana that is responsible for the “high”. Delta-8 THC, also known as “weed light” or “diet weed”, is Delta-9 THC’s chemical cousin. It gets its nickname because it isn’t quite as strong or potent. Delta-8 can be found in drinks, gummies, tinctures, cookies, vapes, blunts and more for sale across the country.
How potent or strong is it?
People using Delta-8 report that it is about half as potent as Delta-9. That said, it’s fairly easy to use enough to get the same effect. According to one website, 60mg of Delta-8 gummies is about the same as 30mg of Delta-9 gummies. They suggest that Delta-8 is a great option for people looking for a “gentler high” or beginners who are not experienced in using marijuana products.
Where do kids get it?
Delta-8 is for sale in gas stations, vape shops, hemp or CBD stores and other outlets. It’s also marketed on social media and is fairly easy to buy online. And, as with other substances like alcohol, people over the age of 18 or 21 can buy it and sell it to younger kids.
Often the packaging isn’t child-resistant and may picture cartoon characters. Bright colors and flavors like Grape Ape, Girl Scout Cookie, Pineapple Express, strawberry and cherry also attract teens and young children.
What are signs of use?
Signs of Delta-8 use are the same as for other marijuana products. They can include changes in appearance, behavior and mood. You can read more about what to look for in our guide, Marijuana: What You Need to Know to Help Protect Children, Teens and Young Adults.
Will it show up in a drug test?
The short answer is that it can. When the body breaks down and processes marijuana, THC metabolites are produced. Urine screens look for these metabolites. Since Delta-8 creates THC metabolites, a positive test can occur.
Also, it isn’t unusual for products to be mislabeled. Delta-9 has been found in some products labeled as Delta-8 or hemp. This will result in a positive urine screen as well.
Is it legal?
While many companies are marketing Delta-8 as a “legal high”, its legal status is in question. People in favor of Delta-8 argue that it is part of the hemp plant which is a legal crop. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) sees things differently. The agency considers it to be a Schedule 1 controlled substance since it is produced synthetically. A Schedule 1 drug is viewed as having no medical use and places people at risk of developing a substance use disorder.
Some states have restricted or banned Delta-8 sales while others are considering bans. There are also states that offer it under their recreational marijuana laws. Still, other states have not taken steps one way or the other. Learn more about its legal status in your state.
Why are there concerns about Delta-8 THC?
In addition to the concerns about its legal status, none of the Delta-8 products for purchase have been evaluated for safety by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently issued a health alert raising several concerns including:
· Limited research on the health impacts of Delta-8
· Marketing products for medical use with no evidence to back up claims
· Mislabeling of products in terms of the amount of Delta-8 present or other ingredients
· Confusion with CBD and hemp products that are not intoxicating
· Lack of consistent testing for heavy metals, solvents, or pesticides
· Product sales in places where there is limited or no oversight as compared to marijuana dispensaries
· Calls to poison control and hospitalizations, especially for children exposed to Delta-8
What can parents and other caregivers do?
Keeping the lines of communication open is always a good place to start. Asking your teen a question like “What have you heard about Delta-8?” can open the door to a discussion about it. Being a believable source of information is also important while avoiding scare tactics.
State your expectations about not using the products. You may also need to help your child role-play what to say so that if they are offered a gummy, vape pen or other product, they know how to respond.
If your child is using these products try to understand their reasons why – is it out of curiosity, boredom, peer pressure, wanting to have fun, stress, or other reasons? Understanding the “why” allows you to think about ways to help them meet their needs in a healthier way.
Learn more about how to address common questions that your teen might ask as well as actions to take with our Marijuana Talk Kit. We also offer a free, online skill-building course. It consists of 10 lessons diving deeper into why kids use substances, ways to have a conversation without them tuning you out and suggestions for encouraging healthier behaviors.