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Are Your Delta-9 THC Products Artificially Made?

Posted by Shannon Fletcher on
Are Your Delta-9 THC Products Artificially Made?

A Delta-9 THC gummy product catches your eye. “Contains 5 mg of Delta-9 THC per serving. Made from Farm Bill compliant hemp." At first glance, everything checks out. Its potency doesn't exceed the maximum legal serving for cannabis edibles (5 mg or 10 mg, depending on the state). And it's made from hemp, i.e., a cannabis plant not containing more than 0.3% THC. So…add to your cart immediately, right? Well, not so fast.

Just because a full spectrum cannabis product, like CBD + THC gummies, appears legal and safe doesn't necessarily mean it is. So how do you know who to trust?

The issue with hemp Delta-9 THC 

First things first. What’s Delta-9 THC? Delta-9 THC is the major naturally occurring psychoactive component of cannabis responsible for the high that users feel.

Despite its "high" concentration, it's not nearly enough for many manufacturers of cannabis products because they're dealing with hemp—which, as mentioned earlier, is defined as a cannabis plant that contains 0.3% or less THC content by dry weight. Thus, getting even 5 mg of Delta-9 THC per serving—in a gummy, for instance—would be tricky and require huge amounts of hemp.

But wait. What does that mean, exactly? Maybe this will help. While it’s entirely possible for manufacturers to get all the Delta-9 THC they need from hemp, it hurts their bottom line. And, as we know, that’s a no-go for most profit-hungry businesses. 

Are there workarounds? 

Right off the bat, there are two workarounds manufacturers could use to bulk up their products' Delta-9 THC dosages (and, thus, profit margins).  

  1. Extract Delta-9 THC from marijuana (i.e., cannabis plant containing more than 0.3% THC content by dry weight), then add it to their product
  2. Convert the CBD present in hemp into Delta-9 THC using an isomerization process

A 2022 lab analysis of 53 of the most popular hemp-derived Delta-9 THC products found that the second workaround is most commonly used. More specifically, 64% (34 products) of the analyzed products used the isomerization process to convert CBD into Delta-9 THC; 19% (10 products) used THC from marijuana to beef up their levels, and only 17% (9 products) used natural hemp-derived THC.

Obviously, manufacturers using the first workaround are operating deep in shades of gray in the eyes of the law…but what about those using the second workaround? Through all manufacturing stages, only hemp is involved—which means everything’s good, right? Not really. 

Understanding the isomerization process

To understand why things aren’t as clear-cut as they seem, you'll first need to know what goes on during this mysterious isomerization process. So, here’s what you need to know: the conversion of CBD to Delta-9 THC involves refluxing the former in an organic solvent (e.g., toluene or heptane) with p-toluenesulfonic acid, or another acid that serves as a catalyst, for 60 to 90 minutes.

As you can tell, these aggressive synthetic conditions can result in unwanted reaction by-products and residual compounds. In other words: the Delta-9 THC you consume may be contaminated by harmful chemicals like dichloromethane and trichloroacetic acid.

Now, here’s a disclaimer: it is possible to separate Delta-9 THC from unwanted reaction leftovers and by-products. But, most manufacturers won’t take the time to distill the solutions or use chromatography. It’s time-consuming and costly (i.e., it eats into their margins).

And besides, nobody’s measuring the pH of Delta-9 THC products or testing for residual strong acids or metals. That means manufacturers can simply leave out implicating information in their certificates of analysis and get away with it, scot-free. This potent mix of factors results in rampant irresponsible—and downright dangerous—production processes.

To illustrate the severity and prevalence of contaminated Delta-9 THC products: many states have introduced laws to block or restrict the sale of synthetic cannabinoids (including Delta-8 THC), citing impurity-related health hazards as their main concern. Even attorneys are urging caution about synthetic Delta-9, predicting an imminent FDA crackdown.

How to know if a product contains artificially made Delta-9 THC 

Ah, what a shocker. So that Delta-9 THC gummy product may not be such a good idea after all. Only, how would you know if any product is free from synthetic Delta-9 THC?

An easy tell is its taste. For the most part, products made from naturally occurring Delta-9 THC will taste earthy, grass-like, and slightly bitter. While not entirely unpleasant, you should definitely notice its undertones. If you don’t, that cannabis product likely contains synthetic Delta-9 THC.

A look into our manufacturing process

This then begs the question: what about OC Health and Welness' Delta-9 THC products? Are they natural? Are they safe? Look at our manufacturing process, and you’ll find the answers you’re searching for:

  1. It all starts with Farm Bill compliant hemp. 
  1. We extract full spectrum oil from Farm Bill compliant hemp, then remove 40 to 50% of its CBD content to improve palatability (because, otherwise, our products would taste like raw hemp flowers, and you wouldn’t want that—trust us).
  1. After further processing, we end up with a final extract containing 70% CBD and 30% other beneficial plant compounds, including CBC, CBG, CBN, and Delta-9 THC. We neither add Delta-9 THC from marijuana nor convert CBD to Delta-9 THC at any production stage.
  1. At the end of it all, our products contain 40 mg of cannabinoids per serving.

Beyond enabling us to stay legal, the resulting ratio of cannabinoids and beneficial plant compounds more closely mirrors what mother nature intended. You’d experience the entourage effect, a well-documented phenomenon in which a variety of cannabinoids and terpenes together is more effective than any isolated forms alone. 

But how does this happen? Many of these compounds have an impact on different physiological mechanisms and signaling pathways in the body. The compounds' actions on these different pathways can thus multiply the likelihood of holistic benefits, putting you squarely on the path to optimal physical and mental wellness. 

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