Why All the Fuss About Alternative and Synthetic Cannabinoids?

The U.S. House of Representatives has recently advanced two bills through committee, bills containing language that would ban alternative and synthetic cannabinoids. Substances like Delta-8 will be off limits if the legislation becomes law. But why all the fuss? Why are some lawmakers dead set against alternative and synthetic cannabinoids?

The answer lies in understanding why people want access to the two most common cannabinoids in cannabis: THC and CBD. THC is especially relevant because it remains federally illegal. Meanwhile, the various states take different positions on THC.

Marijuana and Hemp Are Both Cannabis

The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp production in this country. It also legalized the use of hemp-derived products as health supplements and wellness aids. The end result has been an explosion in the CBD market. Where does CBD come from? It is the primary cannabinoid in hemp plants. THC is the primary cannabinoid in marijuana plants.

Here is the dirty little secret so many people do not know – both marijuana and hemp are varieties of cannabis. The only difference between the two plants is a legal distinction created by the previously mentioned Farm Bill. That legislation created an artificial line of separation by way of THC content.

The threshold for marijuana is 0.3% by volume. Plants with more are considered marijuana. Plants at 0.3% or less are considered hemp. Furthermore, THC is still illegal under federal law while CBD is fully legal from coast-to-coast. The different legal statuses of the two cannabinoids explain why alternative and synthetic cannabinoids are so controversial.

THC Is the Big One

From the federal government’s standpoint, THC is the big one they want kept under control. Many of the states with legalized cannabis programs tend to agree. Take Utah. A medical cannabis patient visiting the Beehive Farmacy in Salt Lake City has access to a variety of highly regulated products. Utah lawmakers are committed to ensuring that their program remains medical-only and that patients get the best possible quality with every purchase.

CBD is also fully legal in Utah. Consumers can buy it at grocery stores, traditional pharmacies, convenience stores, and even online. But what about alternative and synthetic cannabinoids? They are a mixed bag. They occupy a middle ground in most states, Utah included. Delta-8 is a good synthetic cannabinoid for explaining why this is a problem.

Derived From CBD

Delta-8 is a form of THC. It is an isomer of Delta-9, the form of THC that is found naturally in marijuana plants and is illegal under federal law. Interestingly, Delta-8 is produced naturally as well, but in very small amounts. Manufacturers prefer to create synthetic Delta-8 in a lab. They derive their synthetic cannabinoid from legal CBD. Therein lies the problem.

As an isomer of Delta-9, Delta-8 has the exact same molecular makeup. The difference between the two is how the molecules are arranged. Note that Delta-8 is still intoxicating. The high user’s feel is slightly different, but it is a high, nonetheless.

Manufacturers have figured out that Delta-8 is in that gray area. By deriving it from CBD, they are taking advantage of a loophole in federal law. Quite frankly, the same loophole exists in most of the states with legal marijuana programs. So manufacturers are selling products containing Delta-8 right alongside legal CBD.

The House has put language banning alternative and synthetic cannabinoids into two must-pass bills they believe will ultimately make it to the Senate. Whether or not the Senate passes the bills remains to be seen. If I were a betting man, I would count on it.

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