Facts about ‘diet weed’ you need to know before you buy


Delta-8 THC has become extremely popular in the United States as an alternative, legal form of marijuana.

Products containing delta-8 can be found virtually everywhere in gas stations, vape shops, and online stores in states where it is not banned. But the substance is raising alarms among health experts and regulators, and for good reason.

Hospitals and poison control centers have seen a spike in cases where thousands of people have reported becoming sick from exposure to delta-8 THC. Inadequate regulation of the industry is partly to blame, experts say.

If you’re planning on purchasing delta-8 for 4/20, which is widely celebrated by the cannabis community, here are some facts you need to know.

What is delta-8?

Delta-8 THC is a chemical compound produced from hemp, a plant species in the cannabis family. The compound is psychoactive, meaning it can get you ‘high’, although users have described delta-8 as a kind of ‘diet weed’. The effects are weaker than those of delta-9 THC, the intoxicating component found in marijuana.

That is an important difference between delta-8 and delta-9. While marijuana is still illegal both in Indiana and about half of the rest of the country, hemp — at the federal level — is not. It contains no more than 0.3% THC. The problem, experts say, is what manufacturers do in extracting that THC to make their product.

Is delta-8 safe?

While proponents claim that delta-8 can help people manage joint pain and promote their sleep, the FDA strongly discourages people from using it. These products have not been evaluated or approved by the federal agency.

Between December 1, 2020 and February 28, 2022, the agency received 104 reports of side effects from delta-8 THC, including hallucinations, vomiting, tremors, anxiety, dizziness, confusion and loss of consciousness, and regulators have found cases like these continue to rise.

According to a USA TODAY Network investigation, more than 8,000 delta-8-related calls were logged between 2021 and 2023 at the U.S. Poison Centers, which represent 55 poison control centers in the U.S.

How is delta-8 legal?

Delta-8 products would be illegal if there wasn’t a loophole in the 2018 Farm Bill, which distinguished between marijuana and hemp. Under the bill, any cannabinoid derived from hemp is legal as long as the final product contains less than 0.3% THC.

The bill effectively moved hemp from the purview of the Controlled Substances Act to the Department of Agriculture. Growers across the country seized the opportunity and the “diet cannabis” industry boomed.

In May 2022, a federal appeals court confirmed that delta-8 products were legal under the Farm Bill. If a loophole was inadvertently created, the court said, “then the onus is on Congress to correct its error.” In the years since, states have banned or restricted Delta-8, while other states are working to regulate the sector.

Two years ago, during the 2022 growing season, Indiana issued 87 hemp licenses to 38 growers, 30 handlers and 19 grower/handlers.

Map of where hemp is grown in Indiana

Is delta-8 good for anxiety?

Some people think so. Others have reported that it makes their anxiety worse.

What are the benefits of delta-8 THC?

The benefits of delta-8 THC are being researched by medical experts. Some research has suggested that delta-8 may have the potential to treat a range of health and medical conditions, including anxiety, stress, depression and chronic pain, but experts warn that significant research still needs to be done to determine how effective such treatments are and what risks they entail. .

People have described having different reactions to delta-8 THC: some good, some bad. Those who want to try it should talk to their doctor first and be prepared to ask lots of questions about the potential effects on their health.

What about advertising that promises delta-8 is “all natural”?

Don’t swallow advertising claims hoping to confuse “all natural” with “all good.” Just because something is “all natural” does not mean it is benign or safe to consume. Poison ivy is ‘all natural’. This also applies to belladonna, nightshade, arsenic and lead. What matters, experts say, is how much of these foreign substances end up in a person’s body.

Because the amount of delta-8 THC in hemp is very low, manufacturers use additional chemicals in making their products. The FDA said in releasing its guidelines for delta-8 that the process is unregulated and associated with potential harm to consumers.

Production of delta-8 can occur under unsanitary working conditions, the FDA says. It can involve unsafe household chemicals in dangerous amounts that can make people feel sick.

The bottom line is that consumers are risking their safety because they don’t always know they are ingesting delta-8 THC.

Others read: Ohio voted to legalize recreational marijuana. Why Indiana is unlikely to do the same

John Tufts covers trending news for the Indianapolis Star. Send him a news tip at [email protected]. Follow him on X @JTuftsReports.