How delta-9 variety that gives marijuana its psychoactive high, has become easily accessible to children online poisoning thousands per year

Delta-8 THC, the synthetic cousin of the delta-9 variety that gives marijuana its psychoactive high, has become easily accessible to children online.

The hemp-derived oil is available in vape and edible varieties, with manufacturers taking a page from the e-cigarette industry’s marketing book, making the product attractive to children.

New York researchers scoured dozens of websites selling legal delta-8 products and found that almost all of them failed to properly verify the age of buyers, keep prices low enough that even a weekly fee could cover it, and specifically tried to attract young people with vibrant, cartoonish packaging.

Delta-8 products contain what users claim is a gentler alternative to the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) found in marijuana, giving them a more relaxing high without paranoia or anxiety. Some call it ‘diet weed’.

But whether the hemp-derived chemical is harmless has been debated for years, as calls to poison control centers about delta-8 number well into the thousands each year. And the lack of regulation surrounding its production and sale to children is the biggest concern for public health experts.

Delta-8 products are often packaged to be eye-catching, especially to impressionable young people who may not know exactly what they are consuming

Delta-8 products are often packaged to be eye-catching, especially to impressionable young people who may not know exactly what they are consuming

A popular type of D8 vape is pictured

Cloud8 is a recognizable brand of delta-8 products

Like the packaging of nicotine vapes and e-cigarettes, delta-8 vapes are colorful with catchy names

About a decade ago, a stroll through smoke shops and convenience stores revealed large displays of brightly colored nicotine vapors, packaged in packaging featuring cartoon characters or technicolor renderings of fruits and candies.

Ten years later, the displays look the same, but the products have changed. Delta-8 vape pens and edibles are routinely packaged in brightly colored bags and boxes with splashy names like Caviar, Cake and Cloud8.

Its legal status is also attractive to consumers and business owners in states where marijuana has not been fully decriminalized, as they can stock shelves full of vapes, gummies and more without breaking the law.

Online marketplaces are no different. Researchers at Hofstra University found that of 45 Delta-8 retail websites, more than half sold their products in child-friendly packaging.

Dr. Ruth Milanaik, a pediatrician and professor at Hofstra who led the study, said, “What concerns me most about Delta-8 products is the fact that Delta-8 distributors appear to be competing with each other to produce packaging that attract the attention of adolescents.

‘It is vital that there is more regulation to ensure these products do not appeal to teenagers.’

Researchers also found that only 29 of 45 sites asked customers to verify their age before surfing. Nearly all of the sites, 43 in total, lacked any formal age verification measures from third parties, mostly separate companies that help businesses meet age-related retail requirements.

Nearly all sites sold edibles and vape products, while just under half of sites marketed delta-8 tinctures, concoctions of delta-8 oil extracted from the cannabis plant diluted in another oil such as hemp seed oil to get under the tongue to drip.

Most of the products sold on these sites are temptingly cheap.

The cheapest products from fifteen sites cost less than $5, and almost all of them sold delta-8 for less than $20.

And online sellers have been pumping the cheapest products with the highest concentrations of delta-8 THC.

Of the cheapest products on each site, four contain up to 30 mg of D8 and one contains between 31 and 40 mg.

Ten of the cheapest products contain 41 to 50 mg of D8 and 21 of them contain 51 or more milligrams of D8.

Nine of them mentioned no dosage at all.

The researchers said: ‘The lack of age verification before users can purchase D8 products is extremely concerning.

“The low prices, high dosages available and eye-catching packaging make these products extremely attractive to teens looking for a high.”

The legal landscape open to all has led to thousands of calls to poison control centers.

From January 1, 2021 to February 28, 2022, there were more than 2,300 calls to poison centers compared to exposure to delta-8.

The majority of these calls involved adults, but 41 percent involved minors.

Forty percent of the calls involved accidental exposure, such as accidentally taking the drug. Of that 40 percent, more than eight in ten involved children.

This was announced by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). warnings to consumers about delta-8, which does not fall under the agency’s regulatory jurisdiction, meaning manufacturers can get away with adulterating products with other synthetic chemicals or even the federally illegal delta-9 THC variety.

There is little more the FDA can do because, under the 2018 Farm Bill that made hemp legal, delta-8 is not a criminalized substance.

Hemp comes from the cannabis plant, much like the marijuana that millions of people enjoy recreationally or for therapeutic benefits. But unlike marijuana, hemp does not produce delta-9 THC.

The bill stipulated that hemp could be legally grown as long as the THC content remained below 0.3 percent.

Lawmakers specifically defined THC as the delta-9 variety that remains federally illegal and did not address its quieter cousin delta-8, which is extracted from CBD derived from hemp.