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Licensed producers told OCS will not accept delta-8 THC products for the time being

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Ontario Cannabis Store taking temporary measure ‘out of an abundance of caution’

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The Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) has recommended licensed cannabis producers avoid buying any products containing delta-8 THC until the government retailer receives guidance from Health Canada about any potential health risks to users.

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The advice to licensed producers — detailed in a note from OCS chief operating officer Denny Palarchio and posted on Twitter by Trina Fraser, a partner at Brazeau Seller Law who has expertise in cannabis legislation — has been made “out of an abundance of caution.”

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“Existing inventory can sell through. This is a temporary measure until @GovCanHealth guidance is provided,” Fraser’s tweet reads.

Earlier this year, the government retailer began “accepting and distributing products with novel cannabinoids, including delta-8 THC,” the notice states, adding that such products include vapes, edibles, beverages, oils and topicals.

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“Although we are not aware of any adverse reactions to these products in the legal cannabis market in Canada to date,” notes the advisory, “products containing delta-8 THC fall outside the definition of THC under the federal Cannabis Act.”

It adds that regulations addressing “intoxicating cannabinoids and other synthetic derivatives not explicitly captured within the framework” may be required.

In light of the aforementioned concerns, OCS is seeking guidance and direction from Health Canada about any potential health risks to consumers.

Until that specific input is received, the OCS has opted to not accept any product containing delta-8, not issue notices to purchase any such new products, not issue purchase orders for any or the products and cancel any orders that were issued, but not yet fulfilled, and not issue replenishment orders for any currently listed delta-8 products.

A delta-8 search on the OCS website leads to the following message: “New products containing the novel synthetic cannabinoid delta-8 THC will not be listed on until guidance is received from Health Canada.”

Searches for specific products also carry the same message at the top of the listing.

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While it waits to receive Health Canada advice, OCS will continue to “sell through existing inventory through its e-commerce and wholesale channels.”

Stratcann contacted government retailers in other parts of Canada, reporting B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch “is working with its government counterparts to determine the appropriate next steps” and “will not be registering or replenishing any products that contain delta-8 THC” in the interim.

Provinces such as Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador do not carry the products, Stratcann points out, but adds there is one such offering in New Brunswick and at least one store in Yukon that carries a delta-8 product.

What is delta-8 THC?

Delta-8 THC is a cannabinoid found in small traces in the marijuana plant, according to WebMD. Both Delta-8 and Delta-9 are forms of THC. “Both produce a euphoric, fuzzy feeling, but Delta-8 causes a milder high,” the publication reports.

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Sometimes referred to as “weed light” or “diet weed,” Partnership to End Drug Addiction cites one website that reports about 60 milligrams of delta-8 gummies would likely produce about the same effects as 30 mg of delta-9 gummies, something that might be of interest to those wanting a gentler high or for individuals new to cannabis.

WebMD notes some common THC side-effects, including paranoia, anxiety and drowsiness, are reportedly not as potent with delta-8.

How popular is delta-8?

The popularity of the compound is on the rise, with WebMD reporting consumers in the U.S. can find the product “everywhere from boutique weed dispensaries to convenience store shelves.”

U.S. research released earlier this year found that the global rate of delta-8 THC searches was stable between 2011 and 2019 before increasing 257.0 per cent from 2019 to 2020 and 705 per cent from 2020 to 2021.

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“In 2021, the rate of delta-8 THC searches in the U.S. was at least 10 times higher than the rates in other countries or territories,” study authors write, adding that “in absolute terms,” there were 22.3 million such searches in the country during the first eight months of 2021 alone.

Public interest in the cannabinoid “was particularly high in U.S. states that restricted delta-9 THC use. Jurisdictions should clarify whether delta-8-THC can be sold as a hemp product.”

Why did interest in delta-8 take off?

Development and marketing of related products were allowed to flourish as a result of a loophole in the so-called 2018 Farm Bill that legalized industrial hemp, defined in both the U.S. and Canada as containing less than 0.3 per cent THC, and removed the crop and its byproducts from the list of controlled substances.

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The Farm Bill does not specifically mention delta-8, notes WebMD, and a May 2022 ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals noted hemp-derived delta-8 THC falls within the definition of “hemp” in the bill, per the National Law Review.

What does Canadian law say about delta-8?

Citing a media advisor for Health Canada, Cannabis Life Network reported this fall that while federal cannabis regulations do not explicitly mention delta-8 THC, “it is Health Canada’s expectation that licensed processors will not deliberately manufacture and market cannabis products designed to circumvent these types of important public health controls.”

The Vancouver-based media company further reported that since July 11 to Oct. 21 when the article was published, “Health Canada has received 71 additional applications for new cannabis extract and edible products containing Delta 8 THC. The total number of applications received by their department containing D8-THC now sits at 285 at the time of writing.”

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What U.S. states have banned delta-8?

As of the beginning of 2022, Greenway Magazine reported in a map of U.S. states that allow or don’t allow the cannabinoid that “is banned or sales restricted in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Kansas, Kentucky, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington.”

The list represents a mix of states that have legalized recreational cannabis — such as Alaska, Michigan, New York and Washington — and those that have not, including Kentucky, Utah and Mississippi.

Is delta-8 safe?

Referencing the U.S., according to WebMD, “products labelled as delta-8 may contain impurities, including high levels of THC.”

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OCS reports in the notice that officials have been “monitoring emerging concerns” noted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Indeed, the FDA has issued a topic sheet on the new offering. In it, the agency notes “delta-8 THC products have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA for safe use in any context.”

Specifically, the FDA points out it has not evaluated or approved the products for safe use and these may be marketed in ways that put the public health at risk; the agency has received 104 adverse event reports, such as hallucinations, vomiting, anxiety and loss of consciousness, involving the products between Dec. 1, 2020 and Feb. 28, 2022; the compound has psychoactive and intoxicating effects; related products often involve use of potentially harmful chemicals to create the claimed concentrations; and delta-8 THC products should be kept out of the reach of children and pets.

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The FDA has even issued warning letters to companies illegally selling CBD and Delta-8 THC products. “Any delta-8 THC product claiming to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat or prevent diseases is considered an unapproved new drug,” the warning letter states.

“The FDA is very concerned about the growing popularity of delta-8 THC products being sold online and in stores countrywide,” notes Dr. Janet Woodcock, the FDA’s principal deputy commissioner.

“It is extremely troubling that some of the food products are packaged and labelled in ways that may appeal to children,” Dr. Woodcock adds, emphasizing the agency’s commitment to “taking action when companies illegally sell products that pose a risk to public health.”

Earlier this month, Marijuana Moment reported the FDA is collecting more data on the safety of cannabis-derived products, while also touting its recent action to help a state agency crackdown on a company selling delta-8 THC gummies regulators argued are linked to “serious adverse events.”

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