The FDA and FTC issued a cease and desist to companies selling Delta-8 “edibles” deceptively packaged as name brand snacks, and experts warn of the dangers–like psychosis, loss of consciousness and death–ingesting Delta-8 poses for children.
On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission sent warning letters to six companies who sell “copycat” snack foods containing Delta-8 that look strikingly similar to name brand foods.
Delta-8 THC (known as Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol) is a naturally occurring compound found in cannabis–though most Delta-8 is synthesized from CBD–that produces the same effects of marijuana (also known as Delta-9), just at a lower potency.
Sold in places like gas stations and hemp stores, Delta-8 is not FDA approved or regulated because it’s mainly made from hemp-derived CBD, making Delta-8 federally legal under a 2018 farm house bill legalizing hemp, though some states have banned it.
The companies under fire sell products like “Dope Ropes,” which resemble Nerds Ropes, “Double Stuff Stoneos,” that look like double stuffed Oreos, and even snacks with packaging almost identical to Cheetos Crunchy Flamin’ Hot chips and Doritos chips, according to the FTC’s announcement.
The FDA and FTC gave the companies 15 days to respond with details on what they’ve done to address concerns as the FTC said the products might violate Section 5 of the FTC Act.
“Children are more vulnerable than adults to the effects of THC, with many who have been sickened and even hospitalized after eating ‘edibles’ containing it,” FDA principal deputy commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement. “The products we are warning against intentionally mimic well-known snack food brands by using similar brand names, logos or pictures on packaging, that consumers, especially children, may confuse with traditional snack foods.”
3,045. That’s how many cases of children eating “edibles” (THC or CBD-infused snacks) were reported in 2021, according to a study published in Pediatrics. This number is up 14 times from the amount of cases reported in 2017. The Indiana Poison Center is dealing with an uptick in cases, with 75% of all THC overdose calls involving children. Reports involving kids under the age of six nearly tripled in 2022 and some led to hospitalization.
Delta-8 has psychoactive and intoxicating effects that resemble marijuana, and when packaged like snacks that are appealing to kids, its adverse effects can be severe if ingested. According to Riverside Recovery, eating large amounts of Delta-8 can cause psychosis, severe vomiting and addiction. Side effects also include anxiety, tremors, loss of consciousness, confusion and dizziness. A 2021 report published in the American Journal of Case Reports investigated a case of a two-year-old who ate Delta-8 gummies. As a result, the child was unresponsive and suffered from encephalopathy–a decrease in oxygen or blood flow to the brain. Between December 2020 through February 2022, the FDA received 104 adverse event reports from people who consumed Delta-8. Out of those 104 cases, 77% were adults, 8% were children under the age of 18 and 15% didn’t include an age. Almost 70% of those cases happened because the patient ingested a Delta-8 “edible,” like a brownie. National poison control centers received 2,362 Delta-8 exposure cases between January 2021 through February 2022. Of those cases, 41% involved kids under the age of 18 and one pediatric case resulted in death.
Though legal under federal law, 15 states have either banned or prohibited the sale of Delta-8: Alaska, Hawaii, California, New York, Mississippi, Rhode Island, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Iowa, Delaware, Arizona, Colorado, Arkansas and Washington. Other states, like Texas, are attempting to ban it. The state put Delta-8 on its list of controlled substances in 2021, but after a group of veterans, retailers and manufacturers sued the state, a federal judge temporarily removed it from the list. The group sued the state due to the drug’s healing and relief properties. According to a 2021 study published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, participants used the drug for chronic pain, anxiety, depression, panic attacks and bipolar disorder. When compared to other drugs like marijuana, the participants rated Delta-8 very highly in its ability to ease symptoms.