CARY, N.C. (WTVD) -- While marijuana is illegal in North Carolina, cannabis enthusiasts have found a loophole.
Store owners can legally sell products with less than 0.3% THC -- the psychoactive compound in marijuana -- under the 2018 Farm Bill. This legislation cleared the way for products like Delta 8 to hit store shelves and gain popularity, especially in places where recreational marijuana is still illegal like North Carolina.
Delta 8 is a type of THC itself, distilled from Cannabidiol (CBD), another chemical found in marijuana. The type of THC regulated by the Farm Bill and other legislation is known as Delta 9 THC.
But while Delta 8 is technically legal, there is little regulation of the industry that produces it. Dr. Ziva Cooper, Director of the UCLA Center for Cannabis and Cannabinoids, said this can allow for bad actors to swoop in and make products that are unclean, unsafe or even just incorrectly labeled.
"A lot of these Delta 8 THC products are made through this type of synthetic pathway where there can be contaminants," Cooper said. "There can be heavy metals, pesticides, solvents, there can be other cannabinoids in there that people aren't aware of."
In fact, in a study published in the December 2021 edition of Chemical Research in Toxicology, researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center tested 27 Delta 8 products. They found that none of them contained the correct amount of Delta 8 THC, and many contained additional byproducts including heavy metals and additional cannabinoids including delta 9 THC.
That's why Hemp Generation founders and co-owners Louis Rubio and Chloe Blesh send all of their Delta 8, Delta 9 and CBD products for third-party laboratory testing, to make sure that there are no contaminants and their labeling is accurate.
"It's a much worthwhile expense, especially when it comes to ensuring the health and safety of our customers," Rubio said.
Rubio said he has used cannabis his whole life and wanted to bring more people into the culture in a safe environment. He said they take the time to ask new customers questions to make sure they are getting the best product, and they encourage customers to start with low, slow doses and gently ramp up usage.
"We really try to get to know the individual and see what it is exactly that they're looking for before ever considering what to recommend to them," Rubio said. "Just because most places might just give them the strongest thing without really considering what it is they're really looking for or what kind of biology they may have. So asking questions like how sensitive you are to medications or your past use, your experience is really important."
Rubio said because the industry isn't state or federally regulated, they test products constantly to make sure their dosing accuracy is correct and the levels of several additional cannabinoids that could be present in products.
He added that by talking to customers and making sure dosing is accurate, he can prevent a negative experience with Delta 8 or CBD.
"If you were to get it out of a smoke shop you're really not exactly sure if that's the right dose for you," Rubio said. "You might just be going to get it because you want to try it but then you might end up with this horror story of feeling like you're dying and ending up in the hospital for them to say sober up you know because you just had too much."
So even though Delta 8 products can be legally sold at any establishment, experts like Dr. Cooper and the Hemp Generation team recommend being careful with purchases. Look for a USDA licensed hemp processor, and ask for laboratory tests for any products you may want to use.