Ugly duckling or beautiful swan?


The legal environment surrounding cannabis and hemp in the United States, Canada, and many other countries around the world is changing rapidly. This plant no longer bears the stigma of the 20th century.

Over the last decade, it has been commonly accepted that cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes synthesized by Cannabis spp. it may positively affect well-being, but there has been little consideration for potentially adverse phenotypic and sociological outcomes.

However, the realities of the CB1 and CB2 receptors and the endocannabinoid system argues for more research and understanding of phytocannabinoids and their role in physiology.

In the United States, the legal landscape surrounding cannabis is a very limited mosaic between states and the federal government.

From a DEA perspective, cannabis plant or cannabinoid products are illegal if they contain more than 0.3 percent by weight of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, colloquially known as THC.

In an article a, Brian Handwerk writes that contemporary marijuana typically contains between 18% and 30% THC. Such high THC levels are an order of magnitude more powerful than the marijuana of the 1980s.

Hemp is defined in the United States Federal Register as any part or derivative (including seeds) of the plant. Cannabis sativa L. with a dry weight concentration of tetrahydrocannabinols not exceeding 0.3 per cent.

In this context, tetrahydrocannabinols include THC salts and isomers. The FDA must ensure that food, drugs, and safe dietary supplements synthesized or derived from cannabis or hemp comply with DEA ​​regulations.

The USDA must regulate the production of industrial hemp.

In March 2021, the USDA issued a final rule requiring “records on the land where hemp is produced, testing total THC levels, eliminating non-compliant plants, licensing hemp growers, and ensuring compliance with the new program “.

In states that have legalized the medical or recreational use of cannabis products for adults, the legislation for product testing is defined.

Pesticides and residual solvents, terpenes, mycotoxins, heavy metals and microbial screening for E. coli and Aspergillus spp. they are usually required tests.

As for cannabinoids, states require a quantitative evaluation of total THC and total cannabidiol, which is a common phytocannabinoid derived from the decarboxylation of cannabidiolic acid.

These metrics are a standard sum of the corresponding acid plus the neutral compound. Total THC and total cannabidiol are determined by equations 1 and 2.

Equation 1
Total THC = 0.877 * [Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid] + [THC]

Equation 2
Total cannabidiol = 0.877 * [Cannabidiolic Acid] + [Cannabidiol]

Recently, delta-8-THC has become the controversial parent of THC.

In more chemically processed products, the synthetic potential of THC by-products is high and compounds such as delta-8-THC are often formed.

Although not defined in most regulations, the quantitative determination of delta-8-THC is critical to the overall THC precision.

What is delta-8-THC and how is it made?

Images courtesy of Anthony Macherone

Many people do not realize that cannabis plants do not genetically synthesize THC.

In fact, the cannabis genome is encoded to synthesize eight phytocannabinoid acids.

From these acids, between 66 and 100 cannabinoids (there are claims of hundreds of cannabinoids), including THC, are synthesized non-genetically by processes such as decarboxylation, photoirradiation, photooxidation, and other degradation processes.

In harvested plants, delta-8-THC is formed over time by a process that transforms THC into a close “relative” chemically called an isomer.

It has the same number and configuration of atoms as THC, but differs in the position of a carbon-carbon double bond. This subtle difference engenders different biochemical and physical properties in delta-8-THC compared to THC.

Although the formation of delta-8-THC occurs through natural processes over time, its relative concentration is usually low compared to THC and cannabidiol in plant material.

delta-8-THC is also easily synthesized from cannabidiol and this, along with being an isomer of THC, is at the center of controversy among delta-8-THC advocates, government and regional jurisdictions.

What is the appeal of delta-8-THC?

Delta-8-THC is sometimes known as THC-light.

Anecdotally, it is supposed to have some psychoactive properties, but it may not have the intense intoxicating properties of THC.

Certainly more research should be conducted to assess claims that have not been evaluated in controlled studies.

The contemporary appeal of delta-8-THC is the perceived legal status of the compound and which is somehow bordering on
federal law.

Is Delta-8-THC legal?

Technically, no.

The DEA considers delta-8-THC to be a synthetically derived Schedula I controlled substance.

According to Bill Weinberg of Project CBD, the official list of Controlled substances names THC and delta-8-THC under its entry for tetrahydrocannabinols.

Is there a consumer market for delta-8-THC?

Since 2020, sales of delta-8-THC products have increased exponentially.

Many proponents of delta-8-THC claim that the 2018 agricultural law did not explicitly state the legal status of delta-8-THC and is therefore legal. However, many U.S. jurisdictions and the DEA disagree.

What is the future of delta-8-THC?

In products containing high concentrations of delta-8-THC, the compound is synthesized and not obtained by natural post-harvest processes from plant materials.

In addition, delta-8-THC is an isomer of THC.

Because the DEA considers the production of synthetic delta-8-THC illegal and the fact that it is an isomer of THC, these two points project an uncertain future in the U.S. for delta-8-THC products.

Is Delta-8-THC the ugly parent of THC, or will it become the next best in cannabis sales and consumption? It remains to be seen, but rest assured that the debate will be intense and intense on the foreseeable future in the US ϖ

Exemption from liability. Agilent products and solutions are intended to be used for quality control of cannabis and safety testing in laboratories where such use is permitted by state / country law. DE44320.4099189815

Dr. Anthony Macherone is a senior scientist with Agilent Technologies and a visiting professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His analytical experience is LC / MS and GC / MS. For the past 4.5 years, Anthony has led a team of scientists to develop analytical testing methodologies for cannabis and hemp products.

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