I Stand Corrected: The Truth about Delta-8 THC

I Stand Corrected: The Truth about Delta-8 THC

My career as a cannabis advocate and writer has morphed over the years. In the early days, after witnessing the miraculous difference it made for my husband and me, I was your typical, biased cannabis advocate. I thought cannabis was the savior for mankind. — “Why the hell aren’t we putting CBD in the water supply, rather than mind-numbing fluoride,” I often wondered. My blogs consisted of all the miraculous things cannabis can do, our successes, and all the things I was learning as a budtender and a part-time blogger.

I Stand Corrected: The Truth about Delta-8 THC

Kristina Etter

Kristina Etter

@CannaJournalist

And then I became a journalist. The difference between blogger and journalist is that as a journalist, I had to explore both sides of the argument. I had to understand things, not just from the eyes of an advocate, but as a lawmaker, as a public health official, as a regulator… in other words, as the opposition. And over time, I started to develop a different perspective.

Interviewing scientists, researchers, and the people behind the scenes of the cannabis industry, I gained a new perspective. The more I learned, the more conservative I became in my stance, the more respect I gained for the pioneers who came before me, and the more I appreciated the freedoms I have in Colorado.

I learned how intricate and complex the cannabis industry really is, and most of all, I’ve learned that all cannabis is not created equal.

Call me a purist — but I like my plant medicine actually from a plant and not from a lab. This is why we started using cannabis instead of pharmaceuticals in the first place, and this is precisely why I’m publicly changing my stance on Delta-8 THC.

I Feel Betrayed by Commercial Delta-8 THC

As an ‘isomer’ of Delta-9 THC — meaning it has the same atoms, they are just arranged differently, Delta-8 is a naturally occurring cannabinoid in 

tiny, minuscule quantities. So, since it technically does occur naturally, the marketers are calling it a natural substance. But what they don’t tell you is that not one single Delta-8 product on the market today is naturally extracted. None.

Yes, Delta-8 is a naturally occurring cannabinoid, but it is NOT a naturally extracted cannabinoid in the commercial market. ALL of it is produced in a lab. I asked Christopher Hudalla, Founder and CSO from ProVerde Labs, if it was even possible to extract Delta-8 naturally for commercial production. Here’s his response:

“Could Delta-8 THC be extracted & purified from hemp? Possible, yes. Economically feasible, no.

In the analysis of over 18,000 samples [of hemp], 98.5% had NO measurable concentrations of Delta-8-THC. Of the ones that did contain Delta-8, the average concentration was only about 0.0018%. CBD is easy to recover from hemp by extraction and recrystallization. THC cannot be isolated quite so easily. Ignoring the challenge and costs associated with recovering Delta-8, you would have to process approximately 55,000 kilos of hemp to produce 1 kilo of Delta-8-THC. Continuing to ignore the challenge with isolation and purification of the THC, if you assume that a kilo of hemp is around $400, then the cost of just the biomass to yield a kilo of Delta-8 THC would be somewhere around $22,000,000.

If you start to factor in the amount of work necessary and the cost associated with extraction and isolation of the Delta-8, I would estimate that a kilo of Delta-8-THC, extracted and purified from naturally sourced hemp, would be somewhere between $200,000,000 and $500,000,000. Maybe with some economy of scale, you could cut that price in half, maybe $100,000,000… Again, not economically very feasible…”

Sure, 90% of the product might be Delta-8, but what if the other 10% is something that could kill you?

Marketing Deception

Why the deceptiveness in marketing? Because the CBD market is tanking, and producers need to turn a profit. CBD is produced in mass quantities in hemp, and a little goes a long way, so the current market is drastically over-supplied. According to Julie Lerner at PanXchange, the entire industry only needs 59 acres to support the current CBD market.

So, producers are taking their hemp-derived CBD extract to a lab, where they use chemicals like acetic acid (and in many cases, bleach) to convert the CBD to Delta-9 THC and then to Delta-8. Because a product that promises to get consumers high legally — is flying off the shelves.

Terrifyingly, Josh Swider, CEO of Infinite CAL, a highly respected cannabis testing lab in California, told me that many producers making these products cannot carry a chemistry conversation. So, as the demand increases, amateur chemists are finding ways to make the product and do it as inexpensively as possible in the good name of capitalism.

Then, they shop around for the best lab report they can find — which might be some unaccredited lab in some dude’s basement. There is no federal regulation on testing protocols, which means test results will vary from lab to lab. Plus, for hemp, there are no federally mandated testing requirements. So, many producers are ‘cherry-picking’ the report that best supports their cause — profit.

In other words, the cannabinoid craze, combined with legalized hemp with little to no oversight did exactly what we feared — turned hemp producers into pharmaceutical salesmen who will say anything and sell anything as long as they can turn a dollar. Unfortunately, in these cases, profits often come ahead of consumer safety — the very thing that medical cannabis pioneers sought to avoid.

Now, Delta-8 THC isn’t the equivalent of K2 or Spice; those are lab-made, chemical substances that mimic cannabinoids. Delta-8 THC is an actual cannabinoid, but, calling commercial Delta-8 THC a “hemp-derived” or a “natural” product is the equivalent of calling codeine a “poppy-derived, natural” herbal supplement.

The Dirty, Bathtub Crank of Hemp

Some of the articles I’ve read about producing Delta-8 THC call it a simple process. But speaking with two of the biggest, most respected labs in the cannabis industry, as well as Ph.D. chemists, I can tell you it is anything but. Improperly done, the chemical conversion can spell catastrophe for consumers.

Infinite CAL tested more than 2000 samples of Delta-8 products last year. Of those samples, only six were compliant with the legal limits of Delta-9 THC, and just two were actually pure Delta-8 THC extract. It is impossible not to create Delta-9 during the conversion process, and isolating and separating the two cannabinoids is difficult, even for the best labs.

Unfortunately, excess Delta-9 is the least of my worries with these products. In testing, many of them showed much more than consumers bargain for with numerous unidentified components found in the test results. In fact, Swider told me in an interview that “some of them looked like a rain forest on the chromatogram.”

But why stop with just one lab? Speaking with Hudalla from ProVerde, about Delta-8 THC through a conversation on LinkedIn, he sent me this chromatogram. Understand that every visible peak on this is some type of substance — then take note of how many of them are unidentified.

As Swider said, “Sure, 90% of the product might be Delta-8, but what if the other 10% is something that could kill you?”

What if one of those peaks is bleach? Many California-born products in the early days were made with bleach. Bleach is a carcinogen. Would you want to inhale bleach in any quantity?

Like the vape crisis of 2019, it’s only going to take one distracted chemist to cause a national uproar over these products. The question is, why do we have to wait for someone to get sick when test results clearly show that many of these products are questionable?

What Makes Cannabis Any Better?

While I frequently remind people that cannabis and hemp are the same plant, grown in different ways, with different genetic variations. The two industries are light years apart.

Legal cannabis is regulated at a state-level. This doesn’t mean the regulations are ‘less-stringent’ — remember there are no federal regulations about cannabis cultivation because it’s still illegal in the fed’s eyes. State regulations are very strict, and violations are severe. Every single thing that goes into the cultivation of those plants is monitored, tested, regulated, and controlled.

In today’s world of legal cannabis, consumers know exactly what they are consuming. Numerous companies have been shut down for contaminated products, improper dosing, and blatantly ignoring regulations. Ingredient labels spell out every nutrient that was used during cultivation.

Unfortunately, the same is not true for the hemp industry. There are no mandated testing requirements, there are no labeling requirements, and enforcement of shady marketing practices is nearly impossible. In fact, some of these companies are labeling their products “THC-free” — despite the fact that Delta-8 is, itself, a form of THC.

Delta-8 Is NOT Legal

Delta-8 producers are banking on semantics in the game of legality. As I stated earlier, they claim because Delta-8 THC is a naturally occurring cannabinoid and the process starts with CBD extracted from hemp (and not just chemically produced) that Delta-8 THC is not technically “synthesized,” instead it’s “converted” using laboratory processes.

In other words, they claim “synthesized” means made entirely in a lab, whereas “conversion” is the chemical alteration of one natural substance to another natural substance. Tomayto/Tomahto — it’s made in a lab.

You want to know the irony of this… in Colorado (and 10 other states) — Delta-8 THC is explicitly illegal by state law. A cannabis and hemp-loving state has banned the sale of Delta-8 THC. Several states ban Delta-8-THC in their state laws. These states include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, Rhode Island, and Utah. Why? Because they know it is a man-made cannabinoid. Why is this bad?

The USDA Final Ruling states explicitly that ALL synthetic forms of tetrahydrocannabinols are federally controlled substances. Why do they want to do this? Because they prefer pharmaceutical-grade chemists to create synthetics for specific medical use. Not a junior lab technician in a lab that opened six months ago, and definitely not “Joe Hemp Farmer” in his Morton building, who watched a YouTube video about how to do it.

Be Patient, The Real Deal is Coming

As Lerner stated in her year-end report on the hemp market, when the pandemic hit, cannabis was deemed essential, ultimately causing the industry to boom. Unfortunately, the opposite was true of the CBD market. She said, “Why have a non-fat, decaf, sugar-free latte when you can have the real deal?”

Look, I get it — people want to get high, especially those who live in non-legal states. But is it worth stomping on the legacy of an industry and bastardizing the natural plant to chase it? Legal cannabis is coming, people… find patience.

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It’s Time to Take Cannabis Seriously

It’s Time to Take Cannabis Seriously

In recent news, a man in Minnesota, Greg Ulrich, went on a rampage at a pain clinic. Carrying guns and explosive devices, he critically injured three people and killed one. His motive was that he allegedly wanted prescription narcotics that the clinic refused to prescribe for him, and he had been frustrated for years about the level of care he received from this clinic.

Reportedly Ulrich had expressed his frustrations on numerous occasions, even calling the police to ask how to sue a hospital for “performing unnecessary surgery which left him a cripple.”

It’s Time to Take Cannabis Seriously

Kristina Etter

Kristina Etter

@CannaJournalist

When do we acknowledge the opiate epidemic again?

We’ve been distracted by the global pandemic, but this story shines a light on why we must not forget about the addiction problem that plagues our society.

This is, unfortunately, not shocking to me. I watched my husband go through the same thing, ask some of the very same questions this man did, and build up the same level of frustration while under the care of a Minnesota pain clinic. But rather than take his frustrations out on the clinic, the doctors, and the nurses, I became the scapegoat, and his legal addiction nearly destroyed our marriage.

Living in Minnesota, I watched helplessly as the drugs they fed my husband changed him and nearly destroyed our life. With degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, and a cervical fusion, the doctors in the Midwest told my husband he would likely always need opiates, and we listened. They kept him well-supplied with Vicodin, Percocet, and even Fentanyl, as well as gabapentin, Flexeril, and a whole slew of other medications.

Cannabis for Pain and Addiction

On March 18th this year, my husband will celebrate five years opiate-free. After ten years living from prescription to prescription, we moved to Colorado, and he walked away from opiates in 2016. Despite the odds, he did what everyone told him he couldn’t — he ended his dependence on opioid medication without methadone, without suboxone, and without a single day of withdrawal.

The truth is, my husband used legal cannabis for three months before he even applied for his medical card.

Read that sentence again.

In the beginning, we bought everything he needed on the recreational side of the Colorado weed market. Anyone over the age of 21 visiting Denver for the weekend could buy the very same products my husband used to kick-start the end of his 10-year dependence on doctor-prescribed opiates.

While my husband’s experience is extraordinary, it’s not uncommon. More and more research supports the idea of cannabis as an exit drug for opioid users.

Minnesota’s Failed Medical Cannabis Program

You might be saying, “But I thought Minnesota had a medical cannabis program?” And you’d be correct; the state legalized medical cannabis in 2014 and then promptly implemented one of the most restrictive programs in the nation. With just two legal providers and 13 dispensaries across the massive state, patients have incredibly restricted access.

According to recent research, this is counter-productive. Cannabis only works when people have easy, affordable access to it.

New research published in the British Journal of Medicine by a researcher from Yale University, Balázs Kovács, Associate Professor, shows a correlation with increased access to legal cannabis, opioid deaths dropped. In fact, according to the study,

• After studying opioid-related deaths from 2014 to 2018 in 23 US states that allowed legal cannabis dispensaries, researchers found an increase from one to two dispensaries in a county was associated with an estimated 17% reduction in all opioid-related mortality rates.

• This association held for both medical and recreational dispensaries and appeared particularly strong for deaths associated with synthetic opioids other than methadone, with an estimated 21% reduction in mortality rates associated with an increase from one to two dispensaries.

• An increase from two to three dispensaries was associated with a further 8.5% reduction in all opioid-related mortality rates.

From this research, increased access clearly reveals the positive impact of medical cannabis for many people looking for alternatives to opioids.

Minnesota Cannabis is Limited

In Minnesota, not only are dispensaries few and far between, but they are limited to offering vape cartridges, capsules, tinctures, and topicals. Let me tell you from experience… NONE of these products helped my husband’s pain. CBD capsules worked wonders to help him ‘unlearn’ the habit of taking a pill at certain times of the day, but vape cartridges, tinctures, and most topicals had very little impact on my husband’s pain.

Minnesota Cannabis is Overpriced

In capitalism, supply and demand set the price of all commodities. So, where you have limited access and limited products, you automatically have higher prices.

In the image below, I took screenshots from a website belonging to a dispensary in Minnesota (on the left), a Colorado Springs medical marijuana dispensary (in the center), and the Denver recreational market (on the right).

The Minnesota price is over five times higher than the products available in the Colorado Springs area and six times higher than what’s available in Denver’s rec market.

Even just the cost of getting a medical card can be difficult for some, as the state requires $200 to register for medical marijuana. Now, factor in the fact that medical marijuana is not covered by insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid. So, not only do they charge them to be a patient and refuse to help with the costs of their medicine — they up-charge them in the name of capitalism.

Not all Marijuana is Created Equal

Naysayers will read the reports about Ulrich, who was previously arrested for possession of marijuana, and say, “Well, it obviously wasn’t working for him.” No, the occasional recreational use of cannabis is not going to help anyone. In fact, it can spell disaster for anyone dependent on opioids in Minnesota.

You see, in Minnesota, if you’re seeing a pain specialist and receiving opioid-based medications, you are required to have a random urinalysis. The last appointment my husband attended before moving to Colorado, he had actually been using cannabis for a couple of weeks. So, when his UA came back positive for THC, the nurse warned him, “If you test positive for THC again, we won’t fill your prescriptions.”

Had my husband not known that he was moving to Colorado, he probably would’ve lost it, too.

Understanding Cannabis Takes Time — Start Now

Using cannabis with intent and responsibility for medical purposes takes understanding a different approach to using the herb.

For my husband, the secret formula involved high-doses of CBD in the beginning, paired with THC-based edibles. We now understand the science behind why edibles work for him, but smoking, vaping, and tinctures don’t. We also learned that product formulations vary from product to product, and there was a lot of trial and error at first. We kept a journal and tracked what worked and what didn’t.

What I’m trying to say is that learning how to use cannabis took a specific approach, and there were several products he tried that didn’t help him at all. Each individual will find their own path with cannabis. There’s no easy way to recommend a particular cannabis formula because of the variances in body chemistry and even our DNA.

As a former cannabis advisor in Denver, now an author, writer, and journalist in the cannabis and hemp space, I’ll be the first to say — we need more research. We need the studies that will prove what many of us have learned through trial and error — cannabis works.

Cannabis CAN change lives; my husband and I are living proof — but we had to leave Minnesota to do it.

It’s time — people cannot wait any longer for solutions. Legislation must be written to lift the veil entirely. You can’t restrict access, restrict products, and restrict the consumers and expect to still reap the benefits. Minnesota — it’s time to release the restrictions on medical cannabis and give people real options for pain and addiction treatment. It’s time to take cannabis seriously.

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Introducing Seed & STEM

Introducing Seed & STEM

Introducing Seed & STEM

As a forty-something woman, I accept the fact that I am not a stereotypical cannabis consumer. I am looking for more from my cannabis products than just getting high to escape reality, and I don’t want to listen to a random 20-something sell me a product because “it got them sooooo stoned.” I stopped reading (and writing) cannabis strain reviews and descriptions years ago, and because of my involvement in the cannabis industry for the last several years, I am a little more advanced than the Average Joe when it comes to finding the cannabis content I want.

I am not a girlie-girl, I’m a grown-ass woman that has lost interest in the standards girls keep. So, I do not want to read about what varieties of cannabis are best for hooking up. I do not want to read about cannabis manicures or about CBD-infused lip plumpers. I couldn’t care less about what music pairs well with Bubba Kush, I don’t need a dab bucket that cooks slabs of shatter, and I am not interested in using any products that claim to increase libido —I think the world is oversexed and overstimulated as it is.

So, that’s why I created Seed & STEM… real cannabis news for real cannabis women.

I want to know about practical cannabis products that promote safety and responsible consumption. I want to know how people are using cannabis with intent. I want to learn about the science and technology making our industry better and how these innovations impact the end-consumer. As a mature woman, I am interested in cannabis consumption with purpose.

Women & Weed

Women are making waves in cannabis.

As the cannabis industry continues to make advances across the nation, I know that I am not alone. Women everywhere are discovering the benefits of hemp and cannabis, not just for consumption but also for the environment and improving the world we live in. From oils to fuels, clothing to building supplies, medicines, and even foods, hemp is indeed a plant of many uses.

Many women are pioneering incredible solutions in the cannabis industry. Others are taking accountability for their health and wellness, while others find ways to live longer in the face of a terminal illness. These are the stories with substance. These are the stories that change perspectives and end stigmas.

In my role as an editor in the cannabis industry, I have met hundreds of women who are leading the charge to bring new light to cannabis consumption. I want to tell their stories.

Kristina Etter

Kristina Etter

Editor in Chief

Product Reviews

Relatable, Reliable Reviews

No offense, girls, but I don’t want to watch YouTube product reviews that show more of your cleavage than the product. I don’t need scantily clad women in booty shorts and bikini tops selling me products I don’t need, and I definitely don’t want read glowing product reviews paid for by the manufacturer. I want real, unbiased opinions from someone I can trust.

Far too often, people skew their opinions for personal gain. I mean, that’s the whole idea behind celebrity and influencer endorsements, right? Celebrities don’t shoot commercials for free, and influencers don’t mention products for nothin’. However, far too often, opinions are fabricated to make more money.

I won’t do this. In fact, I dropped out of marketing writing because it made me feel ‘icky’ using psychology and emotional manipulation to sell a product. I refuse to endorse a product I haven’t used personally, and I will speak the truth. If I like it, I’ll tell you what I liked. If I don’t like it, I’ll tell you what I didn’t like. But I’ll never sell you a product I don’t personally like and use, and I will disclose all affiliate links that I earn a commission from.

Cannabis News

No Fluff, No BS News You Can Use

If you’re like me, you don’t care whether or not Miley Cyrus is smoking weed or what new CBD product Kim Kardashian is putting in her gift bags. Pop culture is nothing more than brain-numbing fluff designed to keep masses distracted. So, unless Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart announce a secret love-child, I’m really not interested in celebrity news. (Unless of course, Snoop, B-Real, or Tommy Chong come along and want to talk shop.)

On the other hand, I want to know about the politics impacting the cannabis and hemp industries. I want to know about the science and research happening around the world. I want to hear about the companies making a difference in their communities and how cannabis tax dollars are being used around the nation. I want to hear about new products, new processes, new regulations, and new standards.

I want to hear about medical miracles. I want to see how cannabis and hemp are changing our world. I want to hear about the possibilities.

Content for Cutting-Edge Cannabis Consumers

I am a tech-savvy, well-educated, no-bullshit, cannabis-consuming woman. And I am sure there are others like me.

If you’re tired of the same ol’ “Top 10 Reasons You Should be Taking CBD” articles…sick of the bottomless pit of pop culture nonsense… and fed up with fabrications for funding… then pull up your big girl panties and click follow on my new publication, Seed & STEM — no bullshit cannabis news for the more sophisticated consumer.

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